The call has gone out to those who are preparing to transition to college after serving their country in the armed services: The Warrior-Scholar Project Wants You!
Its aim is to immerse enlisted veterans in the university experience, to give them confidence and tools to undertake a bachelor's degree program.
"I tell people — even though it sounds cheesy — it changed my life. It really did," said Sarah Serrano, who participated in the weeklong Warrior-Scholar program last summer at the University of Southern California.
For enlisted veterans who remember the basic training required for military service, it's akin to returning to boot camp, but one designed to prepare them for the rigors of university level academic work.
"The more we can do for our heroes who serve all of us, the better for everyone," said Mark Todd, USC Vice-Provost who oversees the university's programs for veterans.
Serrano had taken some community college classes prior to enlisting in the Marine Corps, assigned to admin and making sergeant before returning to civilian life four years ago. She found some acting work, and took a position with the nonprofit networking organization Veterans in Film and Television. She also squeezed in more community college classes, and began realizing that her goal since childhood of attending USC was slipping away.
Then she heard about the Warrior-Scholar Project, and was accepted with 13 others. Serrano remembers them meeting with John Mork, the chairman of USC's board of trustees, and hearing him encourage all of them to apply to USC for undergraduate admission.
She took it to heart and hopes to be accepted for the fall semester.
"Just the idea of accomplishing this — a goal I had dropped a long time ago — was so exciting," Serrano said.
Launched at Yale University in 2012, the Warrior-Scholar Project spread to other Ivy League schools and across the nation. Twelve campuses will be offering programs this summer, including USC and the University of Arizona in the west.
The Project covers all costs of the program, including room and board at the university. Those accepted are responsible for making their own arrangements to get to campus at the beginning.
At most campuses, the program focuses on a humanities program. Serrano and her USC classmates studied a course on liberty and democracy, which included analyzing the 19th Century classic, "Democracy in America," by Alexis de Tocqueville.
This summer, Yale and the University of Oklahoma will offer two week programs, including a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) component. The participating universities benefit as well, said Todd, by attracting students who bring skills and perspective honed by their service.
Last summer, "the top professors were chomping at the bit" to be part of the program and work with the warrior scholars, Todd said.
Deadline for applications to be considered for this summer's Warrior Scholar Programs is April 15.