Heroes in the Classroom


Andrew Hage

Each year, thousands of our nation’s youth make the decision to enlist and serve in the armed forces. These brave young men and women dedicate their lives to protect the freedoms that we enjoy every day. Their adventures span anywhere from two to twenty-plus years. They sacrifice time with family and friends, missing out on many important events in life such as the birth of a child or the death of a family member and many things in between.

Their military experiences can lead them on a path to success but will only get them so far. What happens once these men and women complete their service? What happens when they rejoin the “real world”? One of the benefits that military service offers is schooling assistance.

The most recent education assistance program offered through the VA is the Chapter 33 Post-911 bill. Depending on training and location, the Post-911 can assist in helping reduce cost of tuition and fees for VA approved programs. If you have served after September 10, 2001, you may qualify for the Post-911 bill and may contact either the VA Regional Office in your local area, or the School Certifying Official (SCO) to determine eligibility. For those who take advantage of this offer, the outcomes can open many doors.

Currently, there are approximately 175 student veterans who have chosen to call CAC home. One of them is Melissa Garcia of Maricopa, a Navy Veteran who served for five years. After waiting for five years to begin using her benefits, she is currently in her second year of schooling, and she took some time to answer a few questions:

Why did you choose to go to school after military service?

Garcia: Continuing my education wasn’t a priority after discharging from the military. I didn’t take my education seriously until I realized people who shared the same title as myself made more money because they had a degree. I worked twice as hard to earn the promotions I received but still made less. Over the last two years, I’ve made education a priority because my career goals have changed. I believe my knowledge and experience backed up with education would open the door for more opportunities.

Why did you choose CAC over a 4-year University?

Garcia:I chose CAC because of the location; it’s close to home and work.

Would you recommend this path to other veterans who aren’t currently taking advantage of schooling benefits?

Garcia:I wouldn’t recommend my exact path. I had to put school aside because I had to make money for my children. I would suggest they attend college as soon as they get out. It’s difficult trying to juggle work, school, and family. But the benefits are great and make me feel valued as a Veteran. The military took great care of me while I was in active duty, and they still do today.


For more information about military and veteran educational benefits, CAC students may contact Veteran’s Services Specialist Elizabeth Barrett at [email protected] 520-494-5517.


Image – by Melissa Garcia