Photo Information

Sarah Jennings, left, walks away from Grand Valley State University with a friend Aug. 23. Jennings turned down a music scholarship to the university and joined the Marine Corps? Delayed Entry Program in Muskegon, Mich.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey A. Janoweic

Corps welcomes college students, offers direction

25 Aug 2005 |

College just isn’t for everyone who is coming straight out of high school, nor is it for all veteran college students.

Students considering college as an option often look into the military for several reasons. Recently, three students from RS Lansing have decided the Marine Corps is more suited to their futures.

Anna M. Kelly was in college for a few months before deciding to join the Marine Corps. She had been through three majors and was about to move on to a fourth when she noticed she wasn’t getting anywhere and recognized that it was at a cost to her parents.

“I went to college because it was the next step after high school, but I found myself floating from one major to the other,” said Kelly, who was recruited from Flint, Mich.

“It was halfway through my sophomore year of college; I just didn’t have my life in order, yet it seemed that all my friends had their lives in order.”

Kelly made the decision to enter the Marine Corps because she said it was the most challenging of all the military branches. She was tired of having her parents spend $3,000 on the community college she was attending along with paying $10,000 a year for her two siblings  to attend a private Catholic school.

Kelly’s mother, Gina M. Kelly, said her husband received 50 percent off tuition at the college, but couldn’t afford to pay for colleges out of the area.

“She wanted to get out of the house and to go away,” said Gina. “We wanted her to be serious about college.

“We’ve always told the kids, ‘You’re going to college.’ She did really well in areas and we thought going into sign language (her fourth major) was a great fit,” said Gina.

That is when she met up with her recruiter out of RSS Flint, Staff Sgt. Ruben H. Ayon.

“I was at the mall (area canvassing) and talking to people and she asked me about the military,” Ayon said.  “She was talking about the Navy and I said, ‘Oh no, you need to come and talk with us,’ and shortly after that she was heading off to boot camp.” After talking with Ayon, she said she was sold on the Marine Corps due to its longer, tougher and more challenging boot camp. However, her parents did not accept her plan too well in the beginning. They said they were shocked about their daughter’s decision.

“But, boy-oh-boy,  when she came out of boot camp, what a change,” said Gina. “She is showing some initiative that she didn’t show during high school.”

Anna has about 68 credits under her belt, and she plans to continue her education while in the Marine Corps after she settles down in her first duty station.

Another woman in a similar situation decided to enter the Marine Corps. Private First Class Bethany Bratton, of Holland, Mich., had a full Air Force ROTC scholarship to Notre Dame. After forfeiting her scholarship by changing her major from aerospace engineering to nursing and accruing a hefty $60,000 loan over a five-year period, she decided the Marine Corps was the way to go.

“I had dated a couple Marines so I knew a little about it,” said Bratton. “I checked out the Navy first and was unimpressed with them and decided to check out the Marines.”

She graduated from boot camp in August and is looking at officer programs for the future.

The third student from RS Lansing signed up for college. He was accepted, but decided to join the Marine Corps instead.

“My brother joined the Marine Corps and graduated a year before me,” said Sarah Jennings, who was recruited out of RSS Muskegon. “And I started thinking about it, but thought, ‘I can’t do it as a female.’”

Jennings plays the flute and was accepted to Grand Valley State University on a small music scholarship. When she got serious about the Marine Corps, she took a music audition and passed with an excellent score of 3.0, which allows her to choose where she wants to be stationed among the 12 Marine Corps bands.

She said she wanted a challenge, didn’t want to have any debt by going to college and wanted to be able to gain experience in something she likes to do, which is to play music.

Jennings, who graduated from high school this year, expressed a desire to take advantage of the Montgomery GI Bill and the 100 percent tuition payments.

Kelly, Bratton and Jennings expressed that the Marine Corps is an ideal place to gain maturity and to prepare for possible tough times in life. They have each found something that they like to do and are comfortable with their choices. Although college was not in their immediate future, by using the military’s 100 percent tuition and the Montgomery GI Bill they have positioned themselves well to earn a degree, which they all plan to do.
9th Marine Corps District