Nearly 500 active military and veteran students are currently taking classes at Bluegrass Community and Technical College. Over 2,200 have enrolled in classes at BCTC in the last five years. In the 2012-2013 academic year, 101 credentials were award to 55 graduates who were active military or veterans. We would like to take the opportunity this Veterans Day to recognize our active military and veteran students and thank them for their service. Here are three of their stories.
Christopher Cool, 43, went into the Army straight out of high school and served from 1987-1993. He served in the first Gulf War, was stationed in Germany and achieved the rank of sergeant. After his service he went back to school at Morehead State University through the GI Bill with plans to earn his bachelor’s degree in medical technology, but a family situation caused him to leave school halfway through.
“For a long time I thought, oh well, I blew my shot (at college),” said Cool.
For 12 years, Cool worked in the engineering field as a technician. He did drafting and designed plumbing systems, and considered himself fortunate to have found a good job. The work wasn’t bad, but he missed science.
Then, the same week Cool was laid off from his job, the VA came out with a program to send laid off veterans back to school.
“I’ve always wanted to go back to school, but I’ve got a family and bills. The VA program helped a lot and made it possible [to go back to school],” Cool said.
Cool was able to transfer his credits from Morehead State to the biotechnology program and graduated one year later. He is now employed in the lab as a biotechnician at Transposagen in Lexington, where he interned during his time at BCTC. Cool works with DNA modification at the lab, and credits the biotechnology program at BCTC with giving him the knowledge, tools, and practical experience he needs to do his job.
“It sounds like science fiction,” Cool said. “It’s cutting edge and it’s being taught right here on this campus.”
Twenty-five or thirty years ago, there was a different perception of community college, said Cool. It was where you went if things weren’t working out. Now Cool is amazed at what he was able to do with an associate’s degree.
Eder Flores, 23, knew he wanted to go to school, but joined the military right out of high school in June 2008 because he had a daughter to support. He was stationed around the United States and had one tour of duty in Iraq from September 2009 - August 2010.
Flores trained as a medic in the Army, and when he got out he started pursuing a degree in nursing.
Flores enjoyed his tour in Iraq as a medic. He was able to train in different areas, assist doctors with many procedures and gain experience in the medical field, all of which reinforced his desire to be a nurse.
He started his pre-nursing degree at BCTC in June 2012 and plans to transfer to a four-year university to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Flores says he enjoys his classes at BCTC, and prefers a small classroom where the teachers are accessible instead of large auditorium class with a few hundred other students.
“I’m a little older, and I didn’t know what to expect [when I came back to school],” he said.
But Flores has found a mix of younger and older students in his classes, and feels comfortable that he will be ready for a four-year school.
“The motivation I learned in the Army has helped,” Flores said. The confidence of being a solider applies to being a student. There are times that being a student gets hard, and I think I did [this] in the Army I can get through school.”
Eder met his wife Stephanie in the Army. She left service when she became a mother and has since gone back to school at BCTC to get her associate’s degree in Surgical Technology. Stephanie is set to graduate next summer.
His advice to others: “It’s never too late to start.”
Veteran Samuel Bloomfield, 24, is in his first year semester at BCTC and is working toward his associate’s in science. He plans to transfer to UK in the fall of 2015.
The military background in Bloomfield's family and the events of September 11 led him to want to serve. He joined the Marines in June 2008 and served four years. He was stationed in Okinawa and North Carolina, and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011.
Currently Bloomfield is a work-study student in Financial Aid at the Leestown campus. He enjoys math and hopes to work in finance after he graduates, possibly as a broker, an accountant or even in financial aid.
“It’s nice to be able to help someone, and to stop fraud,” Bloomfield said of his work-study job.
Bloomfield's advice to veterans: “Ask questions, and take advantage of everything that’s offered to you. It’s there to make you better.”
BCTC is approved for the enrollment of veterans and/or dependents and spouses of veterans to receive Veterans Education Assistance Allowances (GI Bill). The Office of Military and Veteran Student Services exists to provide student veterans and their family members a place to learn about educational benefits, assist with the application process both to the college and for financial aid; to refer counseling and career services when needed and to provide assistance with veterans when applying for the GI Bill.
The office is a resource for student veterans and their families to obtain information regarding a variety of services available. There are computers for use by veterans and an area where veterans can meet and socialize. The Bluegrass Collegiate Veterans Association is a student-run group that promotes fellowship among student veterans as well as opportunities to perform community service and participate in both on and off-campus events.
For more information please contact Gwen Hacker, VA Certifying Official at (859) 246-6820 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Her office is located at the Leestown Campus in Building C Room 118.