AUGUST 2, 2006

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$750,000 grant to ECU offers veterans financial assistance, job training


Meeting to plan the new Veterans Workforce Investment Program at East Central University are Bill Edwards (from left), state director of the Oklahoma Employment Securities Commission Veterans Services; ECU President Richard Rafes; Joe Dyer, state director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Services; and Mary Huckleberry, director of ECU’s Veterans Upward Bound Program. ECU received a $750,000 federal grant for the new program which will help state veterans with financial assistance while they receive job training.

Veterans who often face employment barriers as they begin their transition into civilian jobs now can get financial assistance and job training through a $750,000 federal grant awarded to East Central University.

ECU is the only university in the nation to receive one of 12 grants totaling $6.8 million from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Workforce Investment Program. The Department of Labor also awarded more than $19 million in additional grants to agencies to assist homeless veterans.

“This is so exciting,” said Mary Huckleberry, director of ECU’s Veterans Upward Bound Program. “We will be able to help veterans with disabilities or employment barriers who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan,” she said. “This is an awesome thing our veterans need and deserve.”

The VWIP pays stipends to veterans as they participate in the program’s four weeks of academic training and four to six weeks of job training. The biggest part of the grant funds will go to the veterans, Huckleberry said.

“That’s what’s so awesome,” she added. “This will give them an opportunity to have some money coming in while they’re doing the training.”

The program has a holistic approach, she said, to provide a support system to meet whatever needs the veterans have. They will receive skills assessments, individual job counseling, labor market information, classroom or on-the-job training, skills upgrading and retraining, placement assistance and crucial follow-up services.

ECU’s Veterans Upward Bound Program will help with academic training and the Chickasaw Nation will be one of the sites that will place veterans in job-training positions.

“I need to make a plea to all veterans who might be interested,” Huckleberry said, “to volunteer to serve as mentors to the veterans who will be participating in this employment readiness program.”

To determine their eligibility for the program, veterans should contact Terry Doepke at 332-1533. He is the local veterans employment representative in the Workforce Oklahoma office at the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission in Ada. Questions about the program can be directed to Huckleberry at (580) 310-5541.

Veterans eligible for employment and/or training will meet 30 hours a week – six hours a day on weekdays – for four weeks during the first month for workshops, assessments and counseling and supportive services, followed by four to six weeks of training or working at various locations. Local veterans employment representatives in each county will help place veterans in jobs.

The Veterans Upward Bound program directed by Huckleberry offers similar services directed at preparing eligible veterans to enter or re-enter post-secondary programs, whether it is a technical or vocational school, or a two- or four-year college, anywhere in the United States. However, no financial assistance is provided to veterans by the VUB program.

Contact: Jill Frye, 580.310.5650