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U.S. Senator Dick Durbin meets with veterans to learn about success of Veterans Upward Bound at Roosevelt University

Posted: 02/04/2013
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin visited Roosevelt University in Chicago on Friday, Feb. 1, for an informative roundtable discussion with military veterans who have successfully honed their skills for college.

Durbin (pictured above at center) met with (from left); Chris Chalko, director of Veterans Upward Bound at Roosevelt University and Marcus Williams, Bianca Clayborne, Alvyn Walker and Axel Roldan (and daughter), veterans who have improved their chances for success in college and beyond thanks to Veterans Upward Bound (VUB).

The U.S. Department of Education program, which helps veterans refresh their academic skills so they can successfully complete post-secondary education, operates in Roosevelt’s Gage Building, 18 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago.

“Our job is to help veterans and maximize a return on the investment that the federal government has put into our veterans,” Chris Chalko, director of the VUB program at Roosevelt, told Durbin during the roundtable.

The free program, which serves approximately 6,000 veterans nationwide annually, has helped dozens of Chicago-area veterans, including 90 who are currently taking classes at area colleges today, to brush up on the reading, writing, math and computer skills needed to get a diploma.

“We’ve passed a new GI Bill, and it’s a good one,” Durbin told veterans who were called on individually to tell their personal stories of adjustment after returning from tours of duty and/or discharge from the military.

“Sometimes, our veterans need more, like the help they are getting through this program,” the senator said.

Clayborne, who returned home from military service nearly a decade ago, is now pursuing an education in business administration, a goal that wouldn’t have been possible without VUB. “The program gave me the boost I needed to understand and do math,” she said.

When he returned in 1995 from a tour of duty as a reservist in Bosnia, his future was unsettled and fuzzy, Walker told Durbin. (The two are pictured below at right). Durbin Alvyn “I didn’t have a good direction at all, but the VUB program helped to set up a structure for me. I learned how to write a term paper, which improved my critical thinking skills,” said Walker, who is currently finishing a two-year degree and has plans to enter a four-year higher education institution in the near future.

Williams, who combated drug addiction after returning home from military service, said he knew little about the kinds of benefits and programs available to him as a military veteran.

“When I came to Veterans Upward Bound, I couldn’t even send an email – but the program helped me out a lot.  VUB had me ready to go to college in less than a year,” he said.
While programs like VUB are available to help, Durbin acknowledged that there isn’t always enough communication and information for veterans coming back from service.

“I don’t think we’re doing a good enough job telling people what benefits are available,” he said. “We get criticized for having so many training programs,” Durbin added, “but it seems to me that the VUB program is one that is helping and one that really does fit a niche.”

After the roundtable, Durbin briefed Chicago reporters on a number of pressing issues and initiatives, including escalating gun violence and the need for universal background checks.

For more information on Roosevelt’s VUB program, visit: or contact or 312-462-7534.