Shaping Lives and Futures

by | Jun 2024

SITTING ACROSS from Marc Hamilton, the Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) program director at Western Kentucky University (WKU), his demeanor was a blend of reserved pride and the kind of approachability that instantly puts you at ease. His demeanor is that of a proud U.S. veteran. Hamilton, who retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2017, carries with him a wealth of military and life experiences that are a tremendous help in his current role at the university. 

Hamilton began his military career straight out of high school in 1986, choosing the Army over immediate college education. 

“I went to a college prep high school, so I was never supposed to go into the military. I was supposed to go right into college, but I wasn’t ready for it,” he explained. 

This decision led him from Illinois to Germany, through various roles, and back into school at Illinois State University after his initial time in the service. His journey through the military wasn’t just a career — it was an experience that prepared him for challenges and opportunities in life. 

Reflecting on his military service, Hamilton noted, “Being in the military definitely shaped your life… It groomed me for where I am today.” His career took him across the world — from the Balkans to Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Iraq — places that formed his logistical and leadership skills. But it’s the personal growth and lifelong friendships that seem to have left the deepest impact on him. 

“It really changed me for the better,” he shared with pride. 

Transitioning from life in uniform to a civilian role, especially one so important at WKU, Hamilton has found a new avenue to impact lives — this time, helping fellow veterans navigate the path to higher education. The VUB program at WKU is part of the broader TRIO initiative, a combination of federal programs that emerged from President Johnson’s War on Poverty in the 1960s. 

“We assist veterans transitioning from military service into post-secondary education,” Hamilton said. 

Whether it’s a two-year degree, a four-year degree, or a certificate program, the VUB is designed to tailor its support to the specific needs of veterans.

Hamilton passionately outlined the scope of VUB’s work, emphasizing the personalized support the program offers. From academic preparation in basic subjects like math, English, and science to navigating complex educational benefits and resources, VUB stands as a crucial bridge for veterans. 

“Last semester, we had two veterans who were homeless. We worked with local organizations to secure housing and basic necessities for them,” he recalled, highlighting the program’s community impact and network. 

But perhaps what’s most striking about Hamilton’s work is the personal fulfillment it brings him. 

“It’s great because you actually see them grow before you,” he said, his eyes lighting up. “To help them be that stepping stone, to see where they are now and then four years later, to get that degree and go on and make an impact in the community — it’s great. I like doing that.” 

In his first year at the helm of VUB, Hamilton has already seen significant success, with the program helping over a hundred veterans this year alone. His dedication to the cause is evident as he talks about the broader reach of the program, helping not just local veterans at WKU but also those from other regions through digital platforms like Zoom. 

“We’re here at WKU, but we help veterans attending any two-year or four-year institution,” he stated, emphasizing the inclusive nature of VUB’s support system. 

Hamilton’s story is one of service, both in uniform and in education. Through his leadership at WKU’s Veterans Upward Bound program, he is not just shaping individual futures but helping forge a stronger, more supportive community for veterans transitioning back into civilian life, a very inspiring and humbling feat. 

Hamilton’s journey can serve as a reminder to both servicemen and women and civilians alike. Sometimes, the most impactful battlefields are the ones where we fight for others’ opportunities and successes, far from the front lines. GN 

More Good News

An Expert in Filing

An Expert in Filing

FORMS AND paperwork can be daunting even on the best days — especially when so many forms are important to fill out correctly. That is the struggle of many veterans as they work to file for benefits...

read more
Fireworks, Flavor, and Family

Fireworks, Flavor, and Family

WHAT BETTER time to indulge in the ultimate celebration of all things American: backyard barbecues, July Fourth festivities, and the comforting flavors of home? Let’s salute the classic dishes that...

read more
BiG Local Club & BiG Local Fest

BiG Local Club & BiG Local Fest

NAVIGATING THE ins and outs of launching a successful business and building a recognizable brand is a daunting task. Most entrepreneurs would rather invest valuable time in creating the finest...

read more
Alumni Helping Alumni

Alumni Helping Alumni

“WE ARE stronger together” has become a motto used to encourage individuals to band together to accomplish a greater good for the entire community. In keeping with this growing momentum across the...

read more
In Other News

In Other News

Bowling Green Recognizes New Citizens The city of Bowling Green celebrated the country’s new citizens during its annual Reception for New Americans Sept. 14 at the Sloan Convention Center. The city...

read more
In Other News

“In Other News.”

Breast Cancer Detection App Created by Western Kentucky University Alumna. IN 2003, while taking a shower, Jessica Baladad noticed a lump in her breast, which led to its removal, and she began...

read more
Letter From the Editor: Saluting Our Local Heroes

Letter From the Editor: Selfess

THE MERRIAM-WEBSTER dictionary defines the word selfless as “someone who has no concern for self, or unselfish.” As the world keeps turning, it may feel like selfless people are few and far between....

read more
Faith – ‘Just as you are’

Faith – ‘Just as you are’

FOR OVER 30 years, children’s television host Mister Rogers came into the homes of millions via our television sets and told each of us one of the most important things a person could say to...

read more