Tuesday, August 6, 2013

TIME TO GET BACK TO THE BLOG

It's been a while since I last posted here... so it's about time for an update. Since my last post I got back into school, attending the Great Basin College - Pahrump Valley Center. Most of the classes I've been taking are online and I gotta tell you, I just love this method of education. We didn't have the internet back when I went to college in the 1980's.

Back in late 2011, President Obama signed an education for veterans package called the VOW to Hire Heroes Act 2011 - Veteran's Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) that went into effect in July 2012. Obama's theory was that unemployed military veterans with an honorable discharge, like myself, were having difficulty in competing for jobs because of a lack of necessary, contemporary education. So the plan was to offer those veterans between the ages of 35 to 60, who've been unemployed for more than 3 years (at the time of sign-up), 12 months of active duty benefits to be used towards a college degree in a high-demand field of study. The VRAP benefits are paid through the Montgomery GI Bill–Active Duty program and pay only during the months of actual study (so for example, if each semester is ~3 months then the program essentially pays for 4 semesters of study, or a 2-year degree program if taking 5 classes per semester). The money is paid directly to the veteran to be used for tuition, books, school supplies and living essentials.

I learned about the program shortly after writing my last blog post in May 2012 and immediately jumped onto the program. I didn't agree with Obama's assessment of why I was unemployed (lack of education) because I did have some college back in the 1980's, albeit obsolete in the field I work in (computers were completely different back then). I do agree that having a more contemporary education makes me much more competitive in the job market, but my viewpoint is there has to be jobs available to compete for. I will admit that while I'm pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree with emphasis on Information Specialist, the economy does appear to be getting better and jobs are starting to reappear. I chose to take 4 classes per semester, making my program a 5-semester schedule. I was also able to get help with a Pell Grant due to my financial situation which helps to insure my completing the degree by the end of 2014.

I got really busy with the preparation for my Fall 2012 semester and focused all my attention to that, since it'd been almost 30 years since I last attended any college. The Winter break was short but also busy for me as I prepared for the holidays and the subsequent Spring semester. I've managed to maintain an overall 3.80 cumulative GPA over the two semesters (3.68 in the Fall 2012 and 3.92 in the Spring 2013) and made the college Dean's List each semester. I stayed busy this past Summer, picking up a part-time job working as a caregiver for two patients in the afternoons, 7 days per week (I spend about an hour with each of the senior citizens, cooking dinner and cleaning up after). They're also veterans so I can relate to them and see what I might have to look forward to (or avoid) with regards to my potential health in about 30 years from now. This actually helps me to stay committed to this education so that I can better prepare for my financial future.

I'm now completely prepared for this coming Fall semester and in "waiting mode" for it to begin later this month. Attending online classes from home has proven to be a challenge but is certainly much easier than taking classes on campus. With online classes, I can participate as time permits and work on assignments when it's most convenient. The downside is there are always distractions here that can sometimes get in the way of study time. My dogs want in and out of the house constantly, among other things. I've found that getting out a couple times per week to study at the library or one of the local coffee shops with free WiFi helps significantly. Here in Pahrump, Irene's Off-160 Coffee House is my favorite hotspot because the atmosphere is perfect for studying, the WiFi is always reliable and they make affordable, delicious coffee and offer other great concoctions and pastries. Irene, the owner (a very sweet and very attractive young lady) is almost always there and she is committed to her customers satisfaction. On most evenings after 6pm they have live entertainment with local musician's, comedians and poetry.

I'm looking forward to my 3rd semester this Fall and I'm already planning my next two or three blog posts. I feel that, now that I'm in a comfortable routine with my educational program, I should be able to commit enough time to keep things more current with the blog here. With my financial help and ability to get out more, I've been able to explore some of the better dining options here in Pahrump and plan to write about that next, so keep an eye out for my attempt at being a food-critic next. =:^)

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