Note: This post is part of a weeklong celebration of U.S. military veterans. You can find more stories and resources at the Microsoft Citizenship website.

Going from sitting behind a .50 caliber gun in the dark, fighting Arabian Sea pirates to sitting at a desk in a classroom is quite a transition. Spencer Cockrell served in the Navy for six years, working as a SONAR operator, technician, and supervisor. On January 3, 2011 he will begin the next stage of his career pathway studying computer science at Bellevue College.  “One of the very exciting things about transitioning to college is that you get to be your own person again. You control your own time, and you have the ability to explore and study ideas that are important to you. For me, this is part of the pursuit of happiness that we are all entitled to—it's something that every veteran has fought for.” Spencer talked with us about the new vet services that will be launched in the college’s Microsoft Elevate America Initiative, called Project Succeed. All the parts of the project sounded exciting to him, but especially the internship and job placement help. He noted that it’s been years since he’s had to develop a resume, so the more help on this – the better!

Julius Clemente, a student who is currently attending the college, served in the Navy for two terms, from 1998 to 2005.  “I was a hospital corpsman pretty much the whole time.  I was deployed to Iraq on two different occasions, and also spent a lot of time in Japan.  Right now I’m taking classes to fulfill pre-requisites to get into a four-year physicians assistant program.  Maybe at the U.W.  Or in California.  The UW also has a MEDEX program up at the University of Alaska Anchorage, so I’m looking at that too.  But physician assistant programs are a good fit for me. Actually, the physicians’ assistant training programs were designed especially for returning hospital corpsmen back in the 1960s.”

He is particularly excited about the expanded technology training and internship opportunities that will be available through Project Succeed, especially since they expose students to 21st century skill requirements and often lead to permanent employment. “Internships are key.  BCAV (Bellevue College Association of Veterans for which Julius is chapter president) has folks from all over the services in lots of different occupations. Some of those occupations have skills that transfer more easily to the civilian world, and some—well, it’s a tougher fit. But internships could help in a lot of different fields.”

One of the most active veterans on campus is Pete Smith (pictured below), who founded the Bellevue College Association of Veterans last year, and advocates for veterans across the region. Project Succeed will play a role in helping the chapter in their primary goal of establishing a strongly supportive community of veteran students and providing wrap-around services for who are transitioning from active duty. Pete noted, “It means a lot that Microsoft is supporting this veterans’ project, because it shows that they are looking to give back to those who have given so much for their country. This project can provide veterans with an environment at Bellevue College that expands critical mentoring, internship and job opportunities that we need to be productive in the workplace.”

 

Find out more about Bellevue College.

More veterans resources: