Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) has been serving Greene County veterans through Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) for the past five years. The program’s main goal is to help local veterans find success in college. Thanks to a recent grant renewal and expansion, VUB is now able to serve veterans in up to 15 neighboring counties. This makes it possible to work with more than the 125 veterans VUB has served each year up until now.
Entrance into the program requires a short application and screening by a VUB staff member. “As long as the applicant lives within the designated counties, there aren’t a lot of barriers to joining the program,” explains VUB Program Director Michelle Ciesielski. Veterans who enter the program receive financial assistance with application and transcript fees, help locating and applying for scholarships, on-site tutoring, refresher classes and one-on-one skills building.
“When a person exits the military, they can feel like they are starting from square one,” Ciesielski says. “We found that it helps to be around other veterans and see examples of ways to navigate a civilian space. We want to provide support that veterans can lean on while they transition into civilian life.” The program’s main focus is education, but Veterans Upward Bound also helps with connecting and referring participants who may need assistance with food, housing, or child care to other programs that can address these needs.
While Veterans Upward Bound is funded by a federal grant and doesn’t accept monetary donations, the program still relies on local support. VUB is looking for businesses to collaborate with for cultural trips, help with catering events and mentorships. And of course, says Michelle, “We love working with veteran-owned businesses.”