Young had to take military leave from his full-time job at the U.S. Postal Service to deploy as a reservist. He spent 27 years working for the postal service in total and about 20 years in the military. All the while that conversation with his mother weighed on him.
"When I served, I tried to go to school," he says. "I even did courses here and there, but when you're committed to your country, you may be here today and gone tomorrow. So education was always in the back of my mind."
Young relocated several times throughout his service, and his final move brought him to North Texas, where a conversation at church resurrected a desire to fulfill his mother's wishes.
"A couple of church members were UTA alumni. They were talking about how great UTA was, and I realized I didn't live that far from campus," he says. "I started looking on the website and saw they were very veteran friendly. So I decided to go ahead and apply."
Young retired early from the U.S. Postal Service and took his first UTA class during the 2014 spring semester, joining more than 3,000 other military veterans and families on campus. He says the transition to college, even as an older veteran, was smooth.
"It felt almost like going through boot camp again, wondering where I was supposed to check in and where I would go for help, but UTA walked me through the process and made everything easy to navigate," he says. "I was sold."
UTA's commitment to serving those who have served is gaining recognition. Military Times named UTA to its "Best for Vets: Colleges 2017" list for the fourth year in a row. On the 2017 list, UTA is No. 20 in the nation and the No. 1 four-year university in Texas for veterans and their families. The rankings are based on a school's culture, academic outcomes and quality, student support, academic policies, cost, and financial aid.
"That No. 1 ranking in the state of Texas is just outstanding," says retired U.S. Army Gen. Benjamin S. Griffin, who also serves as a special adviser to UTA President Vistasp Karbhari. "It just speaks to the commitment that this University, the leadership, and the faculty have to supporting veterans. It's an outstanding achievement of which all of us associated with UTA should be very proud."
In 2012, UTA received a federal grant to implement the Veterans Upward Bound program. That was a turning point, allowing the University to increase the services available to veterans.
"Veterans have given so much of their time for our country and we owe it to them to help them get back to their futures through education," says Lisa Thompson, senior director of TRiO Pre-College Programs and Veterans Upward Bound.
UTA now has a Veterans Assistance Center on campus. It is a stand-alone building where veterans can apply for and learn about tuition benefits and scholarship opportunities, as well as receive assistance navigating the college experience. A full-time employee of the Veterans Administration works inside the center, helping veterans, active duty military, and eligible family members understand the assistance they qualify for—even before they have decided to enroll.
Young and several other student veterans also work at the center, providing mentoring, tutoring, and counseling their fellow veterans seeking guidance.
"Lots of times veterans have acronyms in their heads. They're used to taking or giving orders, and then you come into a civilian atmosphere where the jargon is different," Young says. "I try to explain things from their points of view."