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Program receives generous grant

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CSU-Pueblo honors veterans with money for school and many other things. Photo courtesy of the CSU-Pueblo website.
CSU-Pueblo’s Veterans Upward Bound Project received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

CSU-Pueblo started its VUB program in 2003. Pueblo’s program is one of 34 such programs nationwide selected to receive a grant, according to the news release by Director of External Affairs, Cora Zaletel. The program also includes offices at Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs and Pueblo Community College in Pueblo.

According to the news release, each year $250,000 dollars will be dispersed and will continue for five years. Beginning in September, VUB expects to serve approximately 125 veterans per year.

“The VUB Project improves academic, social, and personal support for military veterans and fosters successful entry into postsecondary educational institutions,” said program director Christopher Beltran.

Nearly 100,000 veterans currently reside in Pueblo and El Paso counties combined. According to Beltran, this is one of the highest numbers per capita in the nation.

“[Pueblo and El Paso counties] have more veterans than just about anybody else,” said Beltran.

In order to qualify for this program, one must have served in the military and currently reside in either Pueblo or El Paso counties. Beltran said priority is given to low income and first generation applicants, though these are not requirements to be eligible.

The program focuses on assisting military veterans with pre-college preparation. This program is targeted specifically to actual veterans; spouses and children of current military personnel are not eligible for its benefits, Beltran said.

One reason for the need of this grant is the lower graduation rate of veterans than their non-military peers Beltran said.

Zalatel said, “The primary goal of the program is to increase the rate at which participants [veterans] enroll in and complete postsecondary education programs.”

Benefits available to participants will include free counseling, mentoring, and academic instruction such as tutoring in English, mathematics, science, career planning, computer literacy, and Spanish. Participants can also receive help from the department in applying to the college or university of their choice.

“Additionally, VUB provides access to academic resources, employment referrals, assistance with VA (Veteran Affairs) and G.I. Bill benefits applications and referrals to various community assistance organizations,” Zaletel said.

The G.I. Bill pays for a certain amount of veterans’ tuition, however this grant will help veterans save their G.I. benefits for actual college courses rather than use them on remedial courses and college preparation, Beltran said.

Any veteran who is interested in applying for the program can contact Beltran at 549-2824, assistant director Kevin Walda at 502-4020, or Laura Lisonbee, site coordinator at 540-3077.

Beltran, who is responsible for implementing the program, is a Navy veteran and an alumnus of CSU-Pueblo. He said he recognized the struggles veterans have in returning to college.

“It’s my hope that the next generation of veterans are as successful as those who took advantage of the first G.I. Bill. If we take care of them [veterans] they will take care of us,” Beltran said.