As a Merced College instructor, one of my greatest privileges is working with our student veterans, many of whom are using their GI Bill benefits to prepare themselves for an increasingly competitive job market.
Although some veterans experience a variety of difficulties when transitioning back to civilian life, many others thrive by using the discipline they received in the armed forces to focus on their academic tasks. In this context, I would like to share the story of one very special student who has recently benefitted from several generous scholarships funded by local veteran organizations.
Xochitl Tilley has been attending Merced College for the past two and half years and aspires to become a registered nurse. Her name, Xochitl, (pronounced “Soshee”) is taken from the Aztec word for flower. Xochitl served in the US Army for four years and was deployed to Bosnia where she served as a computer administrator attached to military intelligence. While there, she met her husband of 12 years, Eugene, who serves as a Merced County deputy sheriff. The couple has one daughter.
In May, this Army veteran received three generous scholarships at the annual Merced College Foundation Scholarship Sunday awards ceremony. Xochitl was awarded scholarships sponsored by the American Legion Post #83, the Disabled American Veterans, and a scholarship awarded by the American Legion Riders. Each scholarship was for $500. She is planning on using the funds for textbooks, school supplies and if all goes well, nursing uniforms some day in the near future. While attending Merced College, Xochitl received GI Bill benefits and other veteran’s resources administered by Merced College. She says she is grateful to Veterans Resource Center staff members who have attended to her needs.
As an Allied Health major, Xochitl plans to transfer into the registered nursing program. She is currently maintaining a 4.0 grade point average, which is no easy feat considering that the pre-nursing curriculum includes a string of chemistry, math and biology classes. Xochitl will complete her Associate of Science degree in Allied Health next year at which time she will apply to the nursing program.
No one can accuse Xochitl of being a loafer. Outside of the classroom, Xochitl works in the College’s Veterans Resource Center and also serves as a biology tutor on campus. In preparation for a career in nursing, she also works as a medical assistant for a local physician.
Although spare time is scarce, Xochitl enjoys watching movies with the family and target shooting with her husband (what girl doesn’t?).
Xochitl’s “can do” attitude, pleasant nature and drive to succeed make her a model student and an asset to the Merced College and the community at large. Perhaps someday soon we will see her in uniform once again, this time deployed to the hallways of Mercy Medical Center packing a stethoscope instead of an M-16.
— Cary Coburn is a professor of biology at Merced College Los Banos Campus