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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Warrior-Scholar Project helps veterans pursue higher education

Veterans+Coverage
Photo by FILE
Veterans Coverage

Applying to college as a veteran comes with challenges that most high schoolers don’t have to worry about. The Warrior-Scholar Project, or WSP, hopes to ease these challenges for veterans to achieve their academic goals. 

Student veterans face unique challenges — 47% are married or have kids and only around 15% are traditionally aged college students, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Warrior-Scholar Project is a nonprofit organization that partners with colleges and universities to host one and two week bootcamps as a resource to help transitioning servicemen and veterans reach their educational goals. From June 18 to July 2, the WSP held a humanities and science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, bootcamp at Texas A&M, with the first week being dedicated to the humanities and the second focusing on STEM. 

Ryan Pavel, the CEO of the WSP, said the first bootcamp was at Yale University in 2012 with the goal of giving veterans experience they need to be successful in college. 

“We want [the veterans] to succeed, so WSP is equipping them with the tools and modalities necessary to succeed in higher education,” Pavel said. “Originally, it was just humanities, and then in 2015, we added the STEM component, which is the program that we have at TAMU.”

The WSP offers both in-person and online bootcamps, Pavel said. Anyone interested in attending a camp can visit the WSP website to sign up.

“The application portal will remain open, so anybody can go and fill out an interest form, which is very basic information. This includes [your] name, what kind of program you’re interested in, where you are in the transition process and contact information,” Pavel said. “It’s a three or four minute initial stage application and then we talk to students and figure out how we can help you get to where you need to be.”

Pavel said, for the future of WSP, he would like to continue growing the project and find more accessible ways to bring the bootcamps to veterans.

“This summer, we will serve just shy of 400 student veterans across all of our bootcamps,” Pavel said. “There’s about 180,000 people that left the service last year, so subtracting the number that we’re serving and the number that’s available to serve is enormous. Another part of our strategy has to be a different modality of our programming, which is lower impact, but more accessible”

James Chirdo, an advisor in the Military Admissions Department at A&M, said there is a sizable student veteran population at A&M they assist through the semester.

“[A&M] ha[s] just over 1,200 student veterans on campus enrolled,” Chirdo said. “The Military Admissions Department is inside of the Veterans Resource and Support Center and has a wide variety of resources and scholarships available that they can utilize for free.”

Chirdo said A&M and the department partnered with the WSP for their two week bootcamp, allowing veterans a chance to experience a college classroom.

“[The WSP] brings them to campuses like Texas A&M and gives them two weeks of a trial run at higher education,” Chirdo said. “We run them through with English professors and history professors … and then the second week we get into STEM week with professors from astronomy and physics. They have a couple of research projects that they do in group projects and work on throughout the week and then do presentations at the end.”

For students on campus who want to help veterans, Chirdo said there are opportunities to volunteer with the department and make A&M’s campus a welcoming place.

“There are a lot of different programs at the Veteran Resource and Support center, like the Aggie Shield textbook learning library. We have student groups and students, both military and non-military, that come together to run them,” Chirdo said. “We also do a Vet Camp, so when veterans do come into school, we bring together all of our resources to make sure they’re aware of them. This also allows students to volunteer and connect with veterans and, essentially, network.”

Accounting senior Robert Liu said he served in the Marine Corps at a base in Miramar, California, but after leaving, struggled to find a job in the accounting field.

“After I got out of the military, I was looking for an accounting job or any job in the business world and I quickly realized that I don’t really know the business language,” Liu said. “On top of that, I didn’t know how everything worked. I went through the Warrior-Scholar Project in 2018 and it gave me the confidence to apply for school.”

Some of the challenges Liu said he faced while applying for college were a lack of resources and the stigma around leaving the Marine Corps. 

“We were told in a way that the Marine Corps is the greatest thing that you ever do, so if you leave the Marine Corps, it’s uphill from there,” Liu said. “There weren’t a lot of transitioning resources, so the Warrior Scholar Project provided that skill bridge from the military to academia.”

Liu said he now acts as a mentor to veterans in WSP bootcamps, including the A&M bootcamp, to assist veterans in achieving their academic goals. 

“I’m here to help inspire all the veterans and military members and make them realize this is doable,” Liu said. “There are a lot of us in four-year institutions, Ivy league, or whatever school they want [to attend]. It’s all possible, so everything in the world that you want to do, you can do it.”

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