Sybell Hamilton, left, and Kerstin Ellis, center, with Drury University, talk with Sgt. 1st Class James Mars, Army National Guard proponency noncommissioned officer with the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School, right, as Sgt. 1st Class Quinton Evans, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, MSCoE, fills out an information form. Visitors had the opportunity to talk with representatives from seven colleges May 20 during the Truman Education Center open house.
Sybell Hamilton, left, and Kerstin Ellis, center, with Drury University, talk with Sgt. 1st Class James Mars, Army National Guard proponency noncommissioned officer with the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School, right, as Sgt. 1st Class Quinton Evans, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, MSCoE, fills out an information form. Visitors had the opportunity to talk with representatives from seven colleges May 20 during the Truman Education Center open house. (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Decker) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Truman Education Center held an open house May 20, giving visitors a chance to visit with representatives from the colleges and programs that make up Fort Leonard Wood’s Continuing Education Services.

“We have seven schools here that run programs for our Soldiers and the Fort Leonard Wood community,” said Dr. Debra Wales, Education Services officer. “The purpose of this open house is to highlight that. This past year, with COVID-19, a lot of people took a pause on their education. We’re here to say it’s time to come back. We’re here; we’re running at full swing, and we run classes every day here.”

Officials with Columbia College, Drury University, Lincoln University, the Missouri University of Science and Technology, Park University, Webster University and Ozarks Technical Community College welcomed prospective new students not only with informational brochures and course lists, but with snacks, candy, cookies and even a taco bar.

While one of the goals of the day was to have fun, another was to discover what areas of interest visitors might have and direct them toward the school or program that provided the best fit.

Michael David, the campus director for Drury University, explained that all seven colleges regularly work together to meet students’ needs. Each school has a memorandum of understanding that ensures their programs don’t compete with each other. Several schools also have articulation agreements with each other, meaning students who start a degree program at one school can easily transfer credits if they switch to another.

“One thing we promote here is that it doesn’t make sense for you to come to our school to transfer next year. So, we try to come in and work with each other,” he said.

Visitors could also get information about tuition assistance while on active duty, college funding for spouses, financial aid, G.I. Bill opportunities and more.

“We have four fantastic guidance counselors who can help the spouse or the active-duty service member through every step of the process,” explained Channa Ringo, an education technician with the center. “They can also answer any questions the Soldiers and spouses may have about their educational goals, as well.”

The open house also gave visitors a chance to learn about several programs including the Career Skills Program, which, according to Installation Administrator Requisha Cannon, is designed to serve service members transitioning out of the military.

“It affords them opportunities with internships, apprenticeships, on-the-job training — you name it,” she said. “A lot of times they can go into fields similar to what they did in the military, so they can use that skill set. Or, if they’re interested in doing something different, or they’ve already gained education in something, they can go into another field.”

Two special attendees at the open house included U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood Commander Col. Jeff Paine and USAG Fort Leonard Wood Command Sgt. Maj. Sean McGlensey.

“We know that education unlocks doors and allows people to move on to better themselves, to better their families, and we really support what they do,” Paine said. “We’re very excited to have all the educational partners here to be able to do this, to retain current students, attract new students and really get the word out about the opportunities that are here for our Soldiers, our retirees, our veterans and their families to take advantage of the educational opportunities available.”

Today, service members can take advantage of Army education services earlier than ever before, Wales said.

“There have been some recent changes regarding that, which really benefits Soldiers,” she explained. “It used to be they had to wait one year after they got to their first duty station, but that has been rescinded. Now, they just need to finish what’s called their MEL, or Military Education Level, graduate from (Advanced Individual Training) and be in good standing. That’s really great, because when some Soldiers arrive, they’re ready to pursue their degree.”

She added that newcomers can get information on classes, tuition assistance and more any day at the center’s main office.

“Come by here any day; we can help service members and spouses, we can help their children, retirees and civilians,” she said. “Education has no age limit, and it doesn’t expire, so no matter what your situation is, come and see us and we’ll help you get started again.”