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By Sergent Nathan Estes
I have always had a passion for helping others.
As an adolescent I knew I wanted to do two things with my life become a U.S. Marine, and become a teacher.
I wanted to serve my community by having a positive impact on the lives of others.
After high school, I gave the Marine Corps more than seven years of active duty service, including a tour in Japan and a combat tour in Iraq.
I came to UK in the summer of 2010, and like many incoming freshmen I found my life in a transitional period, from leading Marines on the battlefield to leading students in the classroom, while struggling to rediscover myself, and reestablish my identity.
The last three years have proven to be about as challenging as anything I have ever done. I was 30, a father of two and working full time at a university that doesn’t cater to the non-traditional student.
I found the biggest challenge was fitting in with 26,000 students who couldn’t relate to me – and how could I expect them to?
Fortunately, I discovered there were people like myself at UK with whom I could identify, and an excellent support staff at the Veterans Resource Center, designed to engage and support student veterans to ensure their academic success.
Since 2009 both Anthony Dotson, director of VRC, and Amy Southwood, VA certification officer, have assisted thousands of veterans and their dependents by providing help with GI Bill Benefits, admissions, registration, student housing, financial aid and counseling.
Dotson is also the instructor for the Veterans UK 101 class – a class specifically designed to help incoming student veterans transition as non-traditional students.
This class makes it easier to fit in by offering a learning environment for peers with similar backgrounds, while providing beneficial knowledge for new and experienced students alike.
I found the class to be very beneficial, and recommend it to any student veteran looking to further their education at UK.
The Student Veterans Association, currently led by Philip McKenzie, is an excellent place to meet not only like-minded peers, but great friends. The SVA helps student veterans by assisting the VRC, engaging the community and offering a casual environment outside of the classroom in which student veterans help one another with their transition to the civilian community and college life.
I encourage any student veteran to take advantage of an excellent organization and to be involved by continuing to serve our community.
In only a few short days I will graduate Summa Cum Laude with a degree in secondary English education – not only because of my hard work, but because of the support of the VRC personnel, and the community of friends I discovered through the SVA.
The support and guidance I have received through the VRC and SVA has been integral to both my academic success and personal growth while at UK.
In closing, as time turns the pages this May, and we begin a new chapter in life, I offer these words of advice to my fellow graduates: Choose the road less traveled – nothing in life worth having ever comes easy.
Never quit. I’ve never met a successful person in life who did.
Give back to others; life is so much more fulfilling when you can see the impact of your efforts in those you’ve helped to guide.
I wish all of you the very best in life and your future endeavors.