Gateway Hall, University of Colorado Colorado Springs
1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
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SaCorra Jackson-Ned (2014) grew up in a small town in Louisiana and didn't plan to attend college. When her Uncle suggested the Navy, she readily enlisted but didn’t accept the GI bill or other educational benefits.
After serving for three years, she gave birth to her son and became very ill afterward –and eventually was medically discharged from the Navy.
“I was stuck at that point – with only a high school education, single and had a son. No benefits from the military. As time went on, I found out that because of my medical discharge I was eligible for vocational rehabilitation benefits,” SaCorra said.
She started out attending a for-profit school in Colorado that wasn’t accredited and earned an Associate Degree, not knowing she could have used those benefits toward a four-year degree. After being unable to find a good job, she reevaluated and looked for other options.
A counselor at the VA recommended UCCS, where the OVMSA worked with her to help her continue her chapter 31 benefits, which typically can only be used once.
“At UCCS, they make it happen for you. They help you decide what’s the best route for you to take to gain the most benefit. Then they walk you through it step by step and help you out,” she said.
The second time going to school, SaCorra knew she wanted to be a social worker.
At the time, UCCS didn’t have a social work degree but she could Sociology as a gateway program.
“I was nervous in the beginning about going to UCCS. At first I only tried online classes, because I was nervous about being a nontraditional student. But the online classes didn’t work well for me,” she said.
At that time, she was operating an in-home day care, so when she finally enrolled for classes on campus, it opened up her world. She loved interacting with the professors and fellow students in the classroom and also made friends with veterans and other students.
“I ended up looking forward to going to classes on campus. It was an adventure. I really enjoyed being on campus and meeting people – totally opposite of my fears. There were other students like me, nontraditional, and the professors were really good. I had all good experiences,” SaCorra said.
The vocational rehab program helped her set up interviews and get a resume ready. “So by the time I graduated, I had a job offer with the VA as admin assistant. I took the job as a foot in the door thinking it would be an easier transition (later to social worker) if I were already working for them,” she said.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, she began working for the VA in Denver and Colorado Springs in March 2015. Simultaneously, she started pursuing a Master’s in Social Work at an online university.
“My ultimate goal is to work with homeless veterans in the Springs,” SaCorra said.
To other veterans looking to transition careers to the civilian sector, she advises boldness.
“Take control of your own destiny. Go to the VA office first and find out your benefits and which schools accept these benefits. Then ask lots of questions at the school’s military office. You have to take the lead in your future,” she said.