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Veteran enrollment jumps 20 percent

From left: Seminole State College veterans Jabree Sadberry, Ryan Browne, Ashley Woodrow and Juan Flores

Construction on Seminole State College of Florida’s Altamonte Springs Campus was just getting under way as Jabree Sadberry was preparing for his third deployment to Iraq.

 “I said, ‘Wow, that’s convenient! When I get back, I want to go there!’”

Now Sadberry, 28, is doing just that, using the education benefits available to him in the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The Edgewater High School graduate plans to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy after he completes his Associate in Arts degree next year. He’s one of a growing number of veterans choosing Seminole State as they transition from military to civilian life.

Between Fall 2009 and Fall 2010, the number of veterans registered at Seminole State jumped 20 percent to 600, according to the College’s Veterans Affairs Office. The number of veterans using their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits soared by 50 percent.

Yet many vets either aren’t aware they are entitled to benefits or have forgotten about them, says Jose Toro, Seminole State’s veterans affairs specialist.

“The concern now is those vets who are close to losing their benefits,” Toro says. Veterans should be aware that:

  • Service members who were discharged in 2001 have until the end of 2011 to use their benefits.
  • The Post-9/11 GI Bill was approved in 2009, so vets who were discharged between 2002 and 2009 are eligible for educational benefits under both the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 bill.
  • Veterans who want to use either program must submit an application within 10 years of their date of separation. Those who opt for the Post-9/11 GI Bill will have 15 years to complete their educational program.

That’s where Toro comes in. “They can speak to me, and I’ll handle the application process and submit the necessary documents to the Veterans Administration.”

Getting, or completing, a college education can help veterans to forge a new path in civilian life.

Ashley Woodrow, 26, was an Army medic for three years. The Orange City woman was used to performing a variety of medical procedures, thanks to her military training. Once she returned to civilian life, however, she discovered that her training didn’t equate to the same type of job in the private sector.

“I was working 60 hours a week for hardly above minimum wage, trying to make ends meet,” says Woodrow, a mother of three whose husband is also attending Seminole State. “Then they came out with the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and that was a good incentive to go back to school.”

Woodrow was attracted to the science diploma available through Seminole State’s Art & Phyllis Grindle Honors Institute. “It’s a very strong two-year degree in an up-and-coming science program,” Woodrow says. Her long-term goal is a career in either medicine or chemical engineering.

Woodrow says she wishes more veterans knew about the education benefits available to them. “A lot of people are still confused about who’s eligible under the Post-9/11 bill.”

Sadberry and Woodrow had attended college before their military service, but both say they weren’t ready to take their studies seriously at that point in their lives. Now they’re gung-ho about the opportunity to earn their degrees.

“I’m 10 times more disciplined in my studies than I was eight years ago,” Woodrow says. After the rigors of military life, she says, “you appreciate the time you get to go to school — you don’t take it for granted anymore.”

For more information about educational benefits, visit the Veterans Affairs website.  Learn more about some of Seminole State's veterans on the site's students page.

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