Veterans Upward Bound provides help, motivation

Applying and preparing for college can present challenges for anyone planning to pursue a postsecondary education. But the process can be especially difficult for military veterans.

Henderson State University’s Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) program offers services geared to meet the needs of veterans to help them apply, enroll and complete their college education and put their fears to rest.

The university was recently designated a 2015 Military Friendly School, one of less than 100 colleges and universities to receive this prestigious distinction.

“Being a Military Friendly School demonstrates Henderson’s commitment to serving and supporting student veterans on campus,” said Shawna McNeal-McKenzie, VUB assistant director. “We’re committed to motivate and assist veterans in the development of the academic skills necessary for postsecondary acceptance and success.”

The military friendly designation means there are programs and services in place specifically designed to assist veterans to succeed academically, McNeal-McKenzie said.  Henderson’s VUB program is college-neutral and serves 125 veterans from across 14 Arkansas counties who can enroll in the college of their choice.

Veterans Upward Bound is one of six TRIO programs at Henderson federally funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The program provides assessment and enhancement of basic skills through advising, mentoring, tutoring and academic instruction in the core subject areas. The office is located on the Henderson campus in the Hickory Building.

McNeal-McKenzie served for 11 years as a counselor in Henderson’s TRIO Talent Search Program before she was promoted to VUB assistant director earlier this year. “My prior years of experience in TRIO as a counselor and having served in the Army have made me super sensitive to responding to the needs of veterans,” McNeal-McKenzie said.

“We all know that there are challenges to preparing for college, applying for college and then going to college. These challenges are especially hard for military veterans,” said McNeal-McKenzie. “Many veterans put off going because there is a fear of failure or not understanding the educational process.” 

Veterans who enroll in the VUB program will receive support and resources, including: assistance in completing college admission applications and financial aid applications; academic advising and assistance in course selection; academic, financial and personal counseling; and information in applying for veteran’s educational benefits.

Veterans must meet the following eligibility requirements:  low-income; potential first-generation; having served on active duty as a member of the Armed Forces for a period of more than 180 days and discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable; and a high risk for academic failure.

VUB coordinates services with Guard/Reserve units, workforce centers, adult education programs, community agencies, community colleges, rehabilitation agencies, and VA certifying officers at postsecondary institutions. It is funded for $250,000 annually over a five-year grant cycle.

Two education specialist coordinators staff Henderson’s VUB. Both carry a caseload of approximately 50 veteran participants with the assistant director carrying a smaller caseload. The program has a full-time secretary who provides clerical support.  

Veterans interested in Henderson’s VUB program can call 870-230-5710 or go to