CTC student-soldier earns full ride to Vassar

Staff Sgt Dave Carrell 1What began as a chance encounter a year ago, has led to a full four-year ride to one of the most prestigious universities in the United States. Fort Hood Staff Sergeant David Carrell was looking for veterans’ service assistance on the Central Texas College (CTC) campus when he met Matt Keller, CTC veterans advocate. Keller suggested Carrell apply for the Warrior Scholarship Program, a new week-long education program at Yale University. The result was a four-year scholarship for Carrell to attend Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Carrell was recently notified of his selection to receive a full scholarship covering books, tuition and housing after being nominated by the Posse Foundation. He is one of 11 individuals chosen from all branches of the military as part of the first group of veterans to benefit from the foundation’s expansion program to provide higher educational opportunities for military veterans.

Currently earning an associate degree at CTC, Carrell will enter Vassar as a freshman in the fall 2013. First he must attend a three-week program, set up by the Posse Foundation, to help him and other selected veterans get acclimated to university life and further brush up on their reading and writing skills as well as people skills. “I have to learn how to deal with 18 and 19-year-olds all over again,” said Carrell. “Military life is one thing, but how I address these younger people in the civilian world is something else entirely.”

Based in New York, the Posse Foundation was established to provide educational opportunities for public high school students who demonstrate academic and leadership potential. It recently expanded to provide those same opportunities to military veterans at the suggestion of Catharine Hill, Vassar president, who was seeking to increase enrollment of qualified veterans at Vassar. The college is consistently regarded as one of the country’s best undergraduate liberal arts colleges with a curriculum that encompasses the arts, natural sciences, social sciences and humanities, and offers degrees in more than 50 academic subjects. Vassar is the first school to partner with Posse for this purpose, with both entities hoping to create a model program for peer colleges to adopt.

Now Carrell is one of the 11 selected from a list of 160-plus potential military students. “To be considered, we had to submit five essays along with numerous letters of recommendations,” said Carrell. “In all, it was a six-month process to earn the scholarship.”

Carrell and fellow Fort Hood soldier Spec. Freddie Reed were two of a handful of military members selected for the intensive seven-day program. Carrell, Reed and their classmates were then taught the fundamentals of reading, writing and studying at the college level. And most importantly, they learned how to navigate college and the system of how things are done. “The program basically taught us all how to read and write again,” explained Carrell. “Learning proper sentence structure and how to read for retention at the college level was one thing, but we also learned transitional tips of how to deal with others outside the military environment, how to handle finances and how to bridge that gap in transitioning to civilian life.”

Like the Posse Foundation, the Warrior Scholarship Project looks for military veterans who want to learn and get an education and it prefers those with the least amount of college experience. “Our pilot group consisted of nine very diverse individuals,” noted Carrell. “We had a Navy Seal, someone who earned an associate degree online and a veteran who left the service 17 years ago. Each of us had to tackle the challenges of being out of class or the academic environment for a long time.”

And tackle it they did as Carrell and Reed completed the program and are now furthering their education. Reed, who had no intentions of going to college, has since been accepted to and will attend Rutgers University in New Jersey.

In preparation for his new educational opportunities, Carrell was very thankful to have started at CTC. “CTC enabled me to get my feet wet and get a feel for studying, test-taking and college life in general,” he said. “I am glad I did not wait until I got out of the military before going to school. CTC has helped me see the importance of education and how it will help me achieve the goals I have set for myself.”

Carrell also praised CTC’s effort in serving the military community. “CTC is one school that really gets the soldier and the military,” noted Carrell. “The school personnel know exactly what a soldier goes through with deployments, field maneuvers and other aspects of military life a more civilian-based school would ever understand. Because of CTC, and specifically its veterans’ advocate Matt Keller, my life has changed completely. I am now venturing into new educational opportunities I never would have dreamed possible before.”

While he is unsure of a future career, Carrell is leaning toward the field of clinical psychology with hopes of helping Fort Hood soldiers cope with the traumas of war and integrating back to some sort of normalcy after deployments. “After I earn a bachelor’s degree from Vassar, I plan to continue on toward a master’s degree but it will definitely be from a school somewhere here in Texas or the South where there is no snow and the climate is much warmer,” laughed Carrell.

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