Veteran makes most of college with help from WSU TRIO program
For many people, a college education is a dream that seems out of reach. Low-income families, children of under-educated parents, minority individuals and those who live in disadvantaged communities are just some of those served by Wichita State University’s collection of TRIO programs.
TRIO success stories can be found not only on campus, but in every walk of life. Some TRIO celebrities include ABC news anchor John Quinones, Olympic basketball player Patrick Ewing and astronaut Franklin Diaz-Chang. One local success-in-training is WSU sophomore Brandon Orebaugh, a beneficiary of one of those TRIO program: Veterans Upward Bound.
With his family’s support, Orebaugh enrolled in the military after graduating from Wichita North High School. He’d always dreamed of flying, but for financial reasons decided to enlist instead of pursuing a commission through college.
He was assigned to work as an avionics mechanic in support of military operations in the Middle East. Orebaugh served for 11 years in the U.S. Air Force, where his childhood dreams of being a fighter pilot turned into a passion for the aircrafts themselves.
“When I started working on the aircraft I discovered that I loved troubleshooting the intricacies of the machines,” Orebaugh said. “I decided that’s what I wanted to do – to figure out how the planes work rather than pushing buttons as a pilot. I learned that maintenance of those planes is an honor and a privilege.”
Looking for more
During his time in the Air Force, Orebaugh had put thoughts of college out of his mind, but that didn’t stop his dad from bringing it up now and then. Neither his mother nor father, who is a retired firefighter, went to college themselves. When Orebaugh considered leaving the military he looked into civilian aviation careers back home and realized that being a jet mechanic wasn’t enough – he needed to earn a degree.
“I think that’s a good move for you,” Orebaugh’s father said when he heard the news.
“College was an opportunity that was never offered to my parents,” Orebaugh said. “Nowadays, I feel that college is something everyone needs. It’s difficult to find a good job without college experience.”
Veterans Upward Bound currently serves 120 WSU students through its federal grant, and also helps support their family members through another grant from the state of Kansas.
The goal of the program is to help veterans graduate from college, offering Orebaugh and other veterans academic skill assessments and enhancement through counseling, tutoring and academic instruction in core areas. Veterans Upward Bound also helps veterans find additional grant money and scholarships.
“They’ve been really good about that,” Orebaugh said.
Taking advantage of opportunities
He’s received a lot of help from the program through free textbooks, help with scholarship and grant applications, and last summer he attended a free math course. With the help of Veterans Upward Bound, Orebaugh is a full-time student majoring in aeronautical engineering and a member of the Shocker rowing team.
Veterans Upward Bound is an important TRIO program, Orebaugh said, because it helps meet the special, varying needs of veterans.
“Going back to school 13 years after high school was the hardest part for me,” he said, “but my service has made me a better student. It’s given me the ability to mentor younger students, to tell them what the world outside of school has to offer, to tell them what it means to be a leader.”
Orebaugh’s advice to other veterans thinking about attending Wichita State?
“Just take advantage of college opportunities,” he said. “It’s a fun experience. You get to grow off your past experiences. You get the military benefits and money, and along with other grants and scholarships, you basically get a free education. I don’t think there’s anything that can beat that.”
For more information about Veterans Upward Bound, contact Shukura Bakari-Cozart, Veterans Upward Bound director, at 316-978-6743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.