Amidst the flood of young disabled veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, a group of older veterans organized themselves to help ease the return of the soldiers to civilian life. VeteranTutors.org was set up as a way to sponsor these young veterans and help train them for new careers.
The group understands that returning veterans want nothing more than to return to their units but need to face the reality that service on active duty is over. The success of the Veteran Tutors hinge on finding a new mission for the returning wounded that allows them continue to serve their country and their fellow-citizens. For most it is a life-saving experience, for all it is a pathway to healing.
The mission that these soldiers find so rewarding is helping disadvantaged kids to stay in school and acquire the technology skills needed to compete in the digital economy. Many of the veterans come from disadvantaged homes themselves so the match is perfect.
Veteran Tutors’ Dropout Intervention and Recovery Initiative is a joint effort of experienced educators and disabled veterans and is based on research conducted by Steven D. Levitt, an economist at the University of Chicago, whose analysis of the records of the 400,000 students in the Chicago Public Schools over a period of twenty years found that the only students who saw a dramatic change from transferring to another school were “those who entered a technical school or career academy. These students performed substantially better than they did in their old academic settings and graduated at a much higher rate than their past performance would have predicted.
Now the group is getting help from some national funders. Executive Director Richard Ehrlich went to Washington D.C. to visit Congressman John Carter (R-TX ) who represents the district that houses Fort Hood and serves on the Veterans Affairs sub-committee. The Congressman agreed that Veteran Tutors is an outstanding idea and recommended the group for a National Science Foundation grant.
“This opportunity to help the public schools keep at-risk kids out of trouble and get them into college should not be missed. From my position on the House Appropriations Committee and on the Veterans Affairs subcommittee, I constantly have to weigh the “bang for the buck” we get from each taxpayer dollar. The notion of using the same taxpayer dollar to help at-risk youth stay in school while helping our disabled veterans transition to civilian life is compelling.”
Ehrlich, a veteran himself who returned from the Viet Nam war in body cast, hopes to enlist the help of VFW posts nationwide to help reach the vets who need help.