Monmouth University Military Bridge Program Helps Veterans Pay for Education

By Michael Hill

Sonya Spradley, a grad student at Monmouth University, after serving in the Army as a medic and licensed practical nurse stateside and in Iraq, part of the Bush administration’s surge in 2007.

“When I got out, I knew I wanted to keep helping people but just in a different capacity,” she said.

The New Jersey native is majoring in speech language pathology thanks to a 6-year-old Military Bridge Program. Monmouth and the VA under the GI Bill match dollars to educate military veterans.

“I think it’s great. I think that as many veterans as possible should take the opportunity that’s given,” Spradley said.

David Perez is. He was in military intelligence and from a stateside desert prepared the battlefield during Desert Storm. Honorably discharged, he lost his private sector job to outsourcing, went to the VA and learned of a special vocational program for disabled vets.

“I felt like I had hit the lotto,” he said.

Perez is studying social work. The decision to enroll at Monmouth took him back to 1989 when he chose a different path that eventually led to him joining the military instead of finishing his education.

Is he saying that he went back to ’89 and is redoing his life?

“Yeah, yes and how many of us get the chance to do that? How many of us get the chance to go back to that fork in the road and actually choose the other way? And that’s what I was able to do and I feel so blessed that I was able to do that and I’m very thankful to the VA, I’m thankful to Monmouth University and everyone whose been evolved with,” he said.

Monmouth launched this program because it noticed as vets were coming home from service, its enrollment numbers were increasing on campus and so it decided to smooth the financial pathway to higher education.

“There’s no better place to transition out of the military than an institution of higher learning. I mean, where else can you process the experience you’ve been through but also leverage and capitalize on your participation in geopolitical events and the leadership skills you’ve learned and also where else are you going to, you know, get that real trampoline — if you will — to launch yourself onto a different life trajectory. I mean for most students, I mean that’s an actual conversation now, that’s a game changer,” said Michael Callahan, coordinator of veteran services at Monmouth University.

This veteran student program seems to be growing in size every year — 116 vet students this year, 131 next year. A university offering opportunities of advancement to veterans, to those who’ve offered their service and sacrifice to the nation.