From Service Members To Students
Ana Vidal ended her service as a ground support equipment mechanic in the United States Marine Corps in June. Now 22, it’s been five years since Vidal was last a student, and she found herself eager to rediscover the academic skills she learned before joining the military.
Through the Warrior-Scholar Project, Vidal and 14 other student veterans spent two weeks at Texas A&M University this summer developing the skills needed to successfully complete four-year undergraduate programs. Participants stayed in campus housing and attended lectures with Texas A&M faculty during the academic boot camp.
For Vidal and other members of the military, a program like the Warrior-Scholar Project also serves as an opportunity to reintegrate into the civilian population, she said.
“This program gives us an advantage to getting back into school,” Vidal said. “Although I could have learned all these skills eventually, allowing me to learn them here in a controlled environment gave me the confidence I needed to head into my first semester back in college.”
Texas A&M is one of 18 universities that hosted the national nonprofit program this summer, and the campus has hosted 34 veterans through the Warrior-Scholar Project since 2017. The cost for participants was covered by in-kind support from Texas A&M and investments from foundations, corporations and private donors.
Vidal, who is applying to the University of South Florida and plans to major in marine biology and physics, said participants spent the first week of classes studying humanities, followed by a week focused on sciences. Lectures and workshops led by Texas A&M faculty focused on subjects including writing, political science, U.S. history, math, physics and more.
James Adair, a 23-year-old who served four years in the Marine Corps, described the program as an invaluable experience that helps transitioning veterans become better students while preparing them for the struggles they may face. For veterans who have been out of school for multiple years, it can be difficult to go from military work to an academic environment with no preparation, Adair said, especially given the “extremely different” cultures.
“It can be challenging for many veterans to adapt to this change of culture,” Adair said. “Many veterans face isolation, depression and a wide range of other mental health issues due to this massive culture shock. Courses like WSP address these issues and give the students tools to cope with these challenges.”
Adair, who spent most of his time in the Marines in a scout sniper platoon and concluded his service as a corporal, said he was able to walk away from each lecture he attended feeling that he learned something new thanks to professors who helped the students “truly grasp the material.” He plans on pursuing a bachelor’s degree in engineering at the University of Virginia.
“In class, we would have thought-provoking discussions that would help us to understand better and manipulate the information being lectured for that day, and this became particularly useful when completing the assignments,” said Marcus Bartolome, an active duty corporal in the Marine Corps.
The 23-year-old has spent most of his time in service as part of a scout sniper platoon. Bartolome wanted to learn “essential skills for academic success” through the program, which he said will teach service members “invaluable skills and provide them with the confidence to achieve academic greatness anywhere.” Transitioning to higher education from the military can be difficult, he said, and many veterans are unaware of resources available to them.
“This is what makes the Warrior-Scholar Project so esteemed,” Bartolome said. “They bring all of these resources to one place and teach service members how to use them. These resources set veterans up for success, thus making WSP a gateway for academic excellence.”
Bartolome said his time in College Station also included tours of Kyle Field, the new Zachry Engineering Education Complex and Sterling C. Evans Library. The Idaho native plans to study aerospace engineering at Texas A&M this fall.
Media Contact: Caitlin Clark, 979-458-8412, firstname.lastname@example.org.