Boots to Books
By Jorge Hernandez
From a Green Beret to an Air Bourne Ranger, North Central College in Naperville, Ill., has every branch of military service represented in its student body. And for a small, private liberal arts institution comprised of more than 2,800 undergraduate and graduate students, that’s saying something. For me it says that the College is a place where military students and veterans can successfully make the transition from “boots to books.”
I’ll admit that when I came to North Central College as an undergraduate student after serving in the U.S. Army, it was the picturesque campus, ease of transportation and variety of campus amenities that initially drew me in. What I have unexpectedly discovered is the deep sense of community here among students, staff and professors – particularly professors who are themselves veterans. I think that’s why the College in part has been recognized as a “Military- Friendly School” by G.I. Jobs Magazine, along with many other accolades and national rankings. North Central College is a place that allows me to live out my personal mission – to assist veterans and military-connected students’ transition from fighting wars to battling curricula. That’s why I’ve returned to the College to earn a master’s degree in liberal studies.
North Central College is also one of a few schools that turns Veterans Day into a full “appreciation week.” Campus activities include having lunch with the College president, initiating a “moment of silence” to remember those who’ve lost their lives in active duty, networking and social time, halftime recognition during a football game, free tickets to fine art performances and so much more. Many of these activities are coordinated by Julie Carballo, who coordinates veteran and military student services. She is someone with whom student-veterans can count on for consistent and unwavering support and guidance from the admission process to graduation.
We’re not just a number, as I’ve heard others say about their schools. There are a lot of combat vets at North Central College who understand one another and who are eager to meet with military students. I haven’t encountered the “angry veteran” stereotype here, and no one seems to feel weird about having me in class. Instead, I’ve been welcomed and encouraged to contribute as a leader – a message enhanced by alumni like John Stolze.
“Student-veterans need to understand that what they did in the military will enhance any business they work for …,” says Stolz, an alum of North Central College’s M.B.A. program who served for six years in the U.S. Navy. Stolz provides personal career counseling and, along with his wife, Karen, have established a veteran scholarship fund for students whose G.I. bill has expired.
Veterans’ accomplishments are celebrated at the College’s annual Hail & Farewell Banquet. This past spring, Stolz gave each graduating veteran a challenge coin, which is a military tradition. “These are inscribed with three words: honor, commitment and courage. If one lives by these words across their career, they cannot help but be successful,” he said.
North Central College recognizes the significant value that student-veterans bring to campus. Whether it’s participation in the SALUTE national honor society or accessing resources provided by the College’s Center for Academic Success, student veterans at North Central College gain not only the valuable tools for a successful educational experience but also skills for life.
About the author:
After serving in the U.S. Army from 2012-2015 as an artillery man, Jorge Hernandez enrolled in North Central College’s specialized Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program where his concentration is Culture & Society. Jorge recently started a full-time position as a Workforce Development specialist with DuPage County, focusing on veterans and youth. He will graduate with his Masters degree in June 2017.Jorge is the Student Veteran representative on the national NASPA Veterans Knowledge Community and he is Vice President of North Central College’s Student Veterans Alliance.