Sometimes it takes a less-than-desirable job to spur someone to consider going to college.
That's what happened to Steven Fisher, an Air Force veteran who wanted a career, not just a job, but didn't know how to get started until he heard about the Veterans Upward Bound Program at East Central University.
Now a student at ECU, Fisher is on his way to a career in medical imaging and radiation sciences (such as computed tomography -- CT scans) and has just received two $500 scholarships for the fall semester.
He is a recipient of a $500 scholarship from the National Association of Veterans Upward Bound Project Personnel (NAVUBPP), the national organization of VUB Programs. He also has a $500 scholarship established by the American Legion Post 72 in Ada and ECU's Collegiate Veterans Association. That scholarship is designated for purchasing textbooks from the ECU Bookstore.
Air Force veteran Steven Fisher of Ada (second from left), a student at East Central University, accepts a $500 scholarship from Joe Nicolosi, American Legion District 4B commander and Post 72 commander. The scholarship was established by the American Legion Post 72 in Ada and ECU's Collegiate Veterans Association for purchasing textbooks. Attending the presentation were Jill Williamson (left), ECU's Veterans Upward Bound academic counselor and instructor, and ECU President John Hargrave. Fisher also received a $500 scholarship from the National Association of Veterans Upward Bound Project Personnel (NAVUBPP), the national organization of VUB Programs.
Fisher had to write an essay for the national scholarship about how the VUB program helped him in his college education.
"If it wasn't for Veterans Upward Bound," he wrote, "I wouldn't even be in college."
Fisher enlisted for a six-year hitch in the Air Force in 1999 and served in security forces (military police) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, Kunsan Air Base in South Korea, Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina and Kirkuk Regional Air Base in Iraq.
He was an airman first class, working on the ground in law enforcement, protecting aircraft resources and all assets of the Air Force.
"It is the infantry of the Air Force, defending the base," he said. It is the largest career field in the Air Force."
Fisher met his wife, Kimberly, through a mutual friend in security forces at Wright-Patterson, and they were married four months later. His daughter, Emily, was born during the seven months he was in Iraq.
"I didn't want to be a voice on the phone," he said. "I wanted to be a daddy. That was enough to get me out."
When he left the Air Force in 2005 the family settled in Cleveland, Ohio, and he worked in credit card collections, "the worst job in the world," he said.
"It's a good experience for young people. It will make them want to go to college and do something better."
After the couple bought a house, property values dropped 25 percent in one year and 30 percent the next year, Fisher said.
"Cleveland was going down fast. We thought, we've got to cut and run while we can."
The young family joined Fisher's parents and siblings who had moved from Oklahoma City to Ada, his parents' hometown.
"Oklahoma City is nice, but I love living in a smaller town. Just the quality of life is so much better.
"I was kind of sick of big city life. Living in Cleveland will do that to you," he sighed.
Fisher also had a non-combat injury which made changing careers necessary.
"If I can't do what I love, police work, tactical teams," he said, "I at least want to say I'm proud of what I do.
"The military was a lot of fun," he added. "Every day I woke up and thought, 'I get to go to work today.' But it wasn't the family life that I wanted."
But, Fisher said, he had no idea how to go about enrolling in college.
"I went to ECU's home page and did a search for veterans," he explained. "I found the Veterans Upward Bound program, called them and they said to bring in certain papers. I showed up and they showed me how I was going to enroll in college.
"She (Jill Williamson, VUB academic counselor and instructor) really got it going for me. It spun my head. I had no idea how to start enrolling, how to get the GI Bill and how much it was worth. It was very nerve wracking."
Fisher knew he had to brush up on his math skills for the ACT test. He had to take it again because his ACT scores were too old to count. The VUB's math tutoring program helped him improve his skills.
Kimberly Fisher was working while her husband was preparing for school, which meant 5-year-old Emily had to accompany Fisher to the VUB computer lab.
"He would bring his daughter to our computer lab at first," said Mary Meeks, director of ECU's VUB program. "She was always so grown up and well behaved. She would just sit with him while he was studying. She was so cute."
"She would say," Fisher recalled, "'Daddy, you've got to be good in school like I am.'" She was my driving force then and is my driving force still."
Fisher looked at what different universities could offer and decided to take his basic courses at ECU. He is majoring in biology and will transfer to the University of Oklahoma a year from now to complete courses in medical imaging and radiation sciences.
"Veterans Upward Bound put me in school - literally," he said. "The only thing they didn't do is say, 'These are the courses you have to take.'
"They helped me with the FAFSA (financial aid application). I had no idea. I had to bring in my taxes and they walked me through it.
"If there's a veteran out there who ever wanted to go to school, call them up (VUB office)," Fisher said. "There are a lot of vets who have been out longer than I have. If you think you can't pass the math test on the ACT, they can get you ready."
Veterans Upward Bound is designed to prepare eligible veterans for technical or vocational schools or two- or four-year colleges anywhere in the United States. It offers free educational services for veterans and can help with the financial aid process whether or not the veteran has GI Bill benefits. The program also can assist with the admissions process and pay admission and testing fees.
"VUB helps veterans identify a program of study and a career field," Meeks said. "Most importantly, the program provides help to ensure the veteran is prepared in academic areas such as math and English."
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