Veterans struggling with transition back into class

Transitioning from summer vacation back to school may prove to be difficult for many students, but for another group of students an even harder adjustment is being made- from combat to the classroom.

“Veterans shipped overseas must change the way they think and act in order to survive,” explained the Director of Fort Lauderdale’s Veteran’s Center, Robert White.

White also said that once in combat every veteran experiences some level of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder also known as PTSD, the severe ongoing reaction to extreme psychological trauma.

“There are different levels of transition based on their combat experience,” White said. “It’s hard to come right from war into school.”

White, who works as a readjustment counselor at the Center, said that “Before they [war veterans] can even begin to enroll into school they must deal with anxiety, nightmares, and nervous energy.”

The symptoms of PTSD are inability to concentrate, inability to recall certain incidents, and loss of memory.

Junior Telfort, a 25-year-old engineering student from Miramar, was enrolled at Florida Memorial University before being deployed for 18 months to Iraq.

“My GPA was a 3.8 before I left; I was taking up to eight classes at one point,” Telfort said. “Now I’m struggling, I can only take three or four classes, my GPA is a 2.7.”

Telfort explained that since his return from the war Iraqi War he has needed more time and extra help with assignments.

“I don’t have that edge to compete with other students,” Telfort said. “My concentration and memory are shot.”

Telfort expressed the difficulties of getting help from Florida Memorial’s administration.

“It feels like no one at the school cares or understands what veterans are going through, and it’s so personal that I don’t want to divulge my problems to just anyone to get the help I need,” Telfort said.

Telfort said that the Army took a lot out of his education because of the regular training sessions and being sent overseas. And even though he is in the United States the negative impact proves to be continuous.

Yolanda Bogan, director of counseling services at FAMU, explained that though they do not have a group for veterans, the counseling center’s doors are open and they are able to help veterans with PTSD,         

“We are aware that there is that adjustment the student has to make when returning to the U.S.,” Bogan said. “We can help them with academic coaching. We are aware of the affect of these mental health issues in an academic setting.”

A key point in the education of veterans who have been in combat is that the teacher needs to be made aware of the circumstances, and that is a process FAMU’s counseling center aids in.

Florida A&M University student and veteran, Deseanette McDonald was also sent overseas. McDonald left before her sophomore year.

“I had to transition from soldier to civilian,” McDonald said. “When you come back to the United States we feel setback. Everyone was moving forward while we were gone and now we have to play catch up.”

McDonald also said that the Army instilled discipline in her and that kept her in school.  But, it was difficult at first.

“All last semester I would be in class but my mind wasn’t there,” McDonald said. “I couldn’t focus.”

McDonald said the military taught her to be very observant, and it became instinctual. In the classroom, any movement would catch her eye thus distracting her. McDonald said she knew of several students who had dropped out of school because of PTSD.

PSTD, the process of reentering civilian life, and dealing with what they experienced overseas all affect the students’ adjustment to college. White said that ironically, “What they have gone through can interfere with school work. But, the reason many young people sign up in the first place is to pay for an education.”