Returning U.S. Coast Guard veteran says she couldn’t land job without college degree

Posted: 8:12 PM, Jun 08, 2016
Updated: 2016-06-08 20:12:58-04

NEW YORK -- For many returning veterans, getting a college education is a priority. But paying for it isn’t always easy.

That’s why PIX11 has partnered with the Veterans Education Challenge (VEC). It’s an organization dedicated to sending U.S. military vets to college, and provides them with needed scholarships that the GI Bill does not cover.

VEC founders, Avis and Bruce Richards, started the “Veterans Education $1 Million Matching Challenge” to help fund higher education for returning veterans. Every dollar donated between Veterans Day 2015 and Veterans Day 2016 will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Richards up to one million dollars.

We share the story of U.S. Coast Guard Veteran, who is taking advantage of the educational opportunity given to her through the G.I. Bill.

29-year-old Juliet Cottodejesus enjoyed nine fulfilling and memorable years with the U.S. Coast Guard protecting New York Harbor.

“If the President, the U.N., the Super Bowl, anything that might have been a terrorist target, we would just do security zones around those areas. We also did search and rescue,” Cottodejesus explained.

Juliet said the best part of her service was getting to know the public and telling them about the Coast Guard.

She ended her service in 2014, and was ready to begin a new chapter in her life. But all of her years with the Coast Guard didn’t exactly open doors.

“I wanted to try something new, but I didn’t go to college, so nobody would hire me,” she said.

She is now a junior majoring in business management at Pace University in Manhattan. She credits her father, a former marine, with giving her advice that would make getting higher education possible.

“My father encouraged me to join the Coast Guard, so I could get the GI Bill,” Juliet said.

Juliet is 100 percent covered by the post 9/11 GI Bill which takes care of her tuition and fees, and provides other educational benefits. But many returning veterans are not eligible for full coverage, and they struggle as highlighted in a PSA for the Veterans Education Challenge or VEC.

The goal of the organization is to supplement the GI Bill for financially strapped vets pursuing college degree.

Juliet is already looking beyond graduation with the help of PACE.

“I would love to work for Mattel,” she said. “I’d love to be a part of child development, and children’s toys. I could work from the bottom to the top.”