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Veteran gives veterans a hand up at CCCC

Click to enlarge Veteran gives veterans a hand up at CCCC

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Natasha Patterson, Outreach Specialist for the Veterans Upward Bound program at Central Carolina Community ... (more)

07.12.2013College & Community

SANFORD - Natasha Patterson, a former Marine sergeant, knows what it's like to come out of the military with valuable marketable skills, but no post-secondary education.

A graduate of Waikea High School in Hilo, Hawaii, Patterson served in the Marine Corps from 1989-1997 as a Communications Center operator. After completing tours of duty at Camp Lejeune and Okinawa, the single mother of a young son eventually felt the necessity to stay in one place and plant permanent roots.

Settling in Raleigh initially, Patterson decided to move to California to attend California State University at Long Beach. There, she earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education. The journey toward a college education was a struggle, she admits.

Today, as Outreach Specialist for the Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) program at Central Carolina Community College, Patterson helps veterans like herself re-enter the educational environment.

"I wish I'd known about the Veterans Upward Bound program when I decided to leave the service and go back to college," Patterson said. "I didn't know how to navigate the educational system. I would have been a prime candidate for this program."

Established in the 1970s by the U.S. Department of Education as part of the national Upward Bound program, Veterans' Upward Bound helps participants complete a postsecondary education by providing academic instruction in core subjects like mathematics, laboratory science, English composition, literature and foreign languages.

The DOE has been awarding Veterans Upward Bound grants nationally since 1972, but CCCC's was the first one awarded to an institution in North Carolina. The five-year, $1.23 million VUB project grant, awarded on October 1, 2012, provides $245,086 per year for five years to serve veterans residing in Chatham, Harnett and Lee counties. Partnerships with Wake Technical Community College and Johnston Community College will provide the services to eligible veterans in those counties.

The grant will pay for project support staff, provide stipends to the veterans, and cover other expenses as needed, such as the cost of college preparatory classes. The primary goal of the VUB project is to increase the rate at which participants enroll in and complete postsecondary education programs.

Patterson and academic advisors Wilson Lester and Aaron Mabe motivate and assist veterans in the development of academic and other requisite skills necessary for acceptance and success. The program provides assessment and enhancement of basic skills through counseling, mentoring, tutoring and academic instruction in the core subject areas.

The VUB program also assists veterans in obtaining services from other locally available resources such as the Veterans Administration, state veterans agencies, veterans associations and other state and local agencies that serve veterans.

"Most of the participants in the program are adults who have already worked and provided for their families," Patterson said. "It is difficult for them to assume the subordinate role of student. We provide the services they need to help them build their confidence to achieve their goals. That is why this program is so important."

As Outreach Specialist, Patterson works with local veterans' agencies, veterans' medical centers, the Department of Workforce Solutions, the Department of Labor and even North Carolina legislators.

"My job is to recruit veterans, to get the word out any way I can," she said.

The VUB program at CCCC has already served 85 veterans.

It seems obvious to anyone that Patterson loves her job.

"The fact that I'm a veteran and had to go back to school myself as a working parent, makes me especially empathetic," she said. "I totally understand the process of taking classes at night and going to work during the day. But I also understand that it is worth it."

For more information about Central Carolina Community College's Veterans Upward Bound Program, contact Natasha Patterson at 919-718-7488 or e-mail her at