Warrior-Scholar Project helps veterans transition to student life

The Warrior-Scholar Project is a non-profit that holds weeklong academic bootcamps at universities for veterans returning to school.

“Getting out of the service and going back to school is a tough transition. What we try to do is help with that,” Zach Johnson, veteran, UNC student and Warrior-Scholar Project program director, said.

From June 4 to June 12, the Warrior-Scholar Project will be at UNC to host a series of lectures and workshops for 20 veterans who plan to start or return to university. This is the second year UNC will partcipating in the program.

“The biggest issue veterans face returning to school is definitely assimilation,” Johnson said. “It’s difficult being away from school for so long and having to catch up on the skills (veterans) missed while they were serving.”

Johnson said among other hurdles veterans face is an age gap and an education gap. For some these produce a lack of confidence surrounding returning to school.

Hilary Lithgow, an english and comparative literature lecturer for the program, said the Project’s academic boot camp focuses on the humanities. Participants attend lectures, seminars and workshops.

Kyle Piunti, a veteran, participated in the inaugural Warrior-Scholar Project at Yale University.

“It introduced me to authors, thinkers, historiographers I had never heard of before,” Piunti said. “The curriculum was very developed and I think it helped me transition over to academia.”

After attending the program and two semesters of community college, Piunti said he was accepted to Columbia University where he now studies computer science.

“In the classroom with these vets, you see a certain motivation, an eagerness to learn,” Lithgow said. “I feel like I learn so much from the veterans I work with.”

The Carolina Veterans Organization is currently collaborating with the Warrior-Scholar Project. Gantt Kinlaw, president of Carolina Veterans Organization, said the program is a great idea.

Kinlaw credits the ease of his own transition in part to the established network of veterans at UNC. He hopes to help student veterans in the same way others helped him when he first arrived at UNC.

Throughout the duration of the program, veterans will stay on campus, have access to the libraries, gyms, dining halls and loaner computers.

“We just want them to have the same experience as any other student on campus,” Johnson said.

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