Page 13 - Access 2021
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 Father and son do homework together, which benefits each in different ways. “He helps ground me,” Tyler says, “and I help push the limits of his analysis in our research papers.”
   Rick was excited to attend college with his son. “It was a once-in-a- lifetime chance to sit in a classroom with him and see how he thinks and tackles things,” Rick says. “It was a great opportunity for both of us.”
The Velascos started the Veterans Education Program in the fall 2020 semester. Rick says he was “a little bit overwhelmed” hav- ing not been in school for more than 25 years. “But we have a lot of support in the program,” he adds. Tyler praises the professors in the program. “They’ve helped me – and all of us – to reintegrate into school and build confidence. I’ve been able to jump back into school in a way I didn’t think I’d be able to.”
Father and son have gained greater understanding of one anoth- er. Rick realized he was too hard on Tyler about his grades when Tyler attended community college before joining the military. Rick has since apologized and says: “I didn’t know all that col- lege entails until I got into the Veterans Education Program. Now I see it as a student. It’s like, ‘Man, I’m with you. I get it now.’ ”
For Tyler, he’s seen his father’s natural leadership play out in the program. “It’s so cool to see his charisma and how he interacts with both the professors and the other students,” he says.
Both Velascos plan to enroll at Fresno State in the fall 2021 se- mester, and both want to study psychology. Rick says that he suffers from service-related post traumatic stress disorder and that he’s experienced inadequate counseling over the years. “I’ve had struggles with psychologists who have book smarts, but they have no experience with PTSD,” he says. “They don’t know what it’s like to be fired on and shoot back. I’m hoping I can deliver a better support system for my fellow veterans.” Rick plans to become a veterans counselor.
Tyler aims to work as a clinical psychologist. “I want to help people understand the demons that haunt them and make a dif- ference in their lives.” Other students in the Veterans Education Program have made that difference in his life, helping with the stress he experienced after leaving the Army. “Being around oth- er veterans has been so much more therapeutic than I thought possible,” Tyler says.
The Velascos and fellow students have shared their stories with community members; Sandy Stubblefield, a new supporter, re- cently made a $75,000 gift to the Veterans Education Program, which is entirely donor-supported. Donors appreciate the stu- dents’ stories of hard work and perseverance and as a result are “inspired to philanthropically support future students in the program” says Katie Bewarder, associate director of development in the Division of Continuing and Global Education.
The Velascos appreciate that support and say it changes lives. Rick didn’t believe the program was real when he first heard about it. “It was like too good to be true,” he says.
“I know this sounds like
a cliché, but the program actually changed the direction of my life, and I’m so thankful at every turn.” ~ Tyler
    A C C E S S - The Division of Continuing and Global Education 13

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