Lee knew nothing of it when he showed up at the Tarrant County College registrar’s office this spring to get information about the school’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning program. He served for about six years in the Air Force until he was honorably discharged in 1986.
Economic reasons forced him to give up his roofing and construction business in April 2011, and he had been out of work since, he said.
“They asked me if I was a veteran and I said, ‘Why, yes, I am,”’ said Lee, a Fort Worth resident. “I was overjoyed when they told me I was eligible. Didn’t even know the program existed and now it’s really turning into a big help.”
The VRAP program pays participants $1,473 a month for schooling costs, Curtis said.
Counselors who work with veterans say the program is not for all their clients. It requires legwork by the applicant: find a school within program parameters, get the field of study approved, show that you are unemployed, etc., said James Frost, a lead veteran employment representative with the Texas Veterans Commission.
Because the stipend is a reimbursement, the participant may have to pay some costs upfront, he said.
“You have to really get your ducks in a row,” Frost said. “It would help a lot for people to have some kind of support network to help get through the training.”
It is too early in the program to know how many people are completing it, said Jessica Jacobsen, a spokeswoman at the Dallas Veterans Affairs office.
Lee, who last attended school in the early 1980s, said he is still making the transition from business owner to student with a 15-hour course load. Algebra skills that he hasn’t used in decades have faded, he said.
“Math skills are like a muscle: If you don’t use them every day, you’re going to lose them,” he said. “This program is very intense and very demanding.”
Being a student isn’t easy, but Sledge said the men will finish the program.<< previous 1 2
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