46° F

Innovative program turns productive vets into educated civilians

Published On: May 26 2013 08:00:00 PM EDT   Updated On: May 28 2013 05:40:22 AM EDT

On this Memorial Day, one local college is turning boots on the ground into diplomas in hand.

On this Memorial Day, one local college is turning boots on the ground into diplomas in hand. It's one of the only programs of its kind in the nation.

In uniform, Adam Adams was a U.S. Marine corporal. Today, he is a civilian -- and a college graduate.

"It's like a door to a complete different thing opened up," he said.

Adams just earned his associates degree from Warren County Community College in New Jersey in just one semester.

"It's amazing," he said.

So did Christina Burrows.

"It really helped all my dreams come true," she said.

Burrows felt lost as a civilian when she left the National Guard.

"I got very discouraged," she said.

Adams and Burrows are the first graduates of a unique new program at WCCC called "VIPER.'" It stands for "Veterans In Pursuit of Educational Readiness."

"There's nothing about this degree that's 'easy' at all," said Dr. Will Austin, WCCC's president.

Austin said many schools give partial credit for military job training, but VIPER attempts to give almost full credit, depending on the student's specific skills and length of service.

"An employer looks at military service and they may not know how to process it in every human resource office in the country, but they know what to do with a college degree."

Students can continue on to a bachelor's program after VIPER.

"We have a partnership with Thomas Edison State College that allows these students to move seamlessly into their bachelors degree," said Austin.

That's what Adam Adams plans to do next. He hopes to one day be a New Jersey State Trooper, or perhaps work for the FBI.

"I don't see it as a reward," he said. "I see it more as a thank you for your service."

A "thank you" in the form of a future.