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Boots to Books helps veterans make the transition from military to college

Lodi News-Sentinel - 1/5/2021

Jan. 5—When veteran Peter Cline transitioned out of the military in October 2020 after serving three years in the Army, he found himself struggling to navigate the college application process. Cline had taken classes while serving, but felt a huge disconnect between the transition program the military offered and actual admissions.

With the help of a Chapman University classmate, Cline founded a new organization, Boots to Books, and set out to help service members making the transition from soldiers to students.

Cline reached out to people who had already graduated college to see If they would be willing to lend a helping hand to veterans looking to start their studies. Volunteers can be mentors in their given field, look over an applicant's college application, or help with career planning.

"Our goal is to make the transition process as easy as possible. We want to help with every facet of that," he said.

Robert Geiszler, a graduate from Rio Valley Charter School in Lodi who is currently serving as an Army staff sergeant and squad leader at Fort Benning, Ga., is the organization's chief marketing officer.

"We will help them with all aspects of it. We're working on getting donations — most will help them with fees and books and other things the GI Bill does not cover," Geiszler said.

Current students, soldiers, veterans and graduates from several different fields contribute a wide variety of experience and knowledge to the organization. One is a pre-law student at the University of California, Berkeley, and another studies economics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

"They are really smart guys that have experience with the college admissions process in the last few years," Cline said. "So it's the most relevant, updated information from guys who have gotten into the schools that everybody wants to go to. There are things we provide that nobody else does. There are other programs that want to get veterans into school, and that's great, and our goal is to provide the services they provide, but we want to go above and way past that."

Army veteran Jason King said that transitioning back to a civilian lifestyle is challenging enough, so any help navigating what can be a confusing admissions process is greatly appreciated. King turned to Cline for help when both were still serving.

"Peter helped me while he was still enlisted in the Army, before he officially started Boots to Books. He helped me enroll at American Military University using tuition assistance and start my first class. When I transitioned out he assisted me with my common application and I was admitted to several schools in California for the spring, but chose to defer because they won't be in person," King said. "Registering for classes on active duty was hard, and he helped me through my first ones as well as helping me harness my benefits when I finally transitioned. It meant a lot."


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