“At V School, we start with figuring out what students are trying to get out of this experience and how do we achieve it. Then, we work backward from there,” Michael Zaro, CEO of V School, said.
This ethos is exemplified in how V School has adapted to accommodate veterans. In this article, we’ll look at how this change went into effect and how V School is helping veterans relaunch their careers today.
V School’s mastery-based model prioritizes competency over time, allowing students to build a strong understanding of tech skills at a realistic speed.Talk to V School today.
Five Years of GI Bill® Approval
V School opened its doors in 2013 but it wasn’t until three years later that it made a groundbreaking move that makes coding education more accessible than ever to veterans. It all began when Kacie Jacobson, a former sergeant who was considering V School at the time, posed one question: “Can I use my GI Bill® benefits to learn at your school?”
A Collaboration Like No Other
At the time, GI Bill® benefits were not a legitimate payment option for V School but instead of turning a potential student away, the school asked back: “How can we help you? How can we be a school that offers exactly that?”
Those questions set a tedious yet important process in motion. Kacie, determined to use her hard-earned GI Bill® to learn new technical skills, volunteered to get the paperwork ready for the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).
“I did a lot of research and I was very persistent,” she said. “I got the paperwork together for V School to apply for VA’s approval so they can accept GI Bill® benefits. I handed everything over to them and V School did the work.”
“Initially, I had to take V School’s word that they would see the process through so I actually paid my own tuition,” Kacie said. “When they succeeded in getting VA’s approval, my GI Bill® was paid and I got my money back. The rest is history.”
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The average bootcamp grad spent less than six months in career transition, from starting a bootcamp to finding their first job.
After graduating from her Web Development program, Kacie stayed on with V School on as the Head of Veteran Affairs, where she consulted other veterans on the admissions process among others.
How Does GI Bill® Work At V School?
“I helped other veterans like myself navigate the process; basically how to use their GI Bill® benefits to pay for their education at V School. It’s a very simple process,” Kacie said. She explained that the GI Bill® generally includes tuition, living stipend, and other expenses. However, this may vary per veteran’s contract.
Here’s how veterans can use their GI Bill® to fund a V School program:
- Check with the US Department of Veteran Affairs if you are eligible for VA education benefits. You can apply for the benefits on the website.
- Identify the details of your GI Bill® benefits and submit proof of your eligibility to V School.
- V School forwards the relevant documents including proof of tuition fees to VA. Once approved, VA will disburse the requested amount directly to the school. Enrollment begins whenever the student is ready.
“V School has made it so easy. After getting the VA approval [to accept the GI Bill®], lots of veterans started coming to V School. They get good jobs after the program, too, which is great,” Kacie, who has gone on to explore roles like QA engineer, lead business analyst, and web developer since V School, said.
Helping Veterans Make a Smoother Transition into Tech
Establishing a new payment option may seem like a daunting task, but for V School, it was a necessary move that is in tandem with its motto: “Offering the best possible curriculum and support that leads to the best possible outcomes.”
V School added, “It allows our veteran community to receive the training they need to land a successful tech career after their service. We want to do everything we can to return the help they’ve given.”
Teaching Skills That Will Lead to Employment
V School is unique in that it employs a responsive learning model. Instead of the more conventional cohort-based model, V School students move through the modules at a speed that they’re comfortable with. In other words, you advance based on your mastery level. If you feel like you’re not ready to move forward, you can choose to repeat a module at no extra cost.
The reason? Everyone is unique in their background, life circumstances, and experiences. “In order for the conventional model to work out, everything in your life has to line up. When life happens—as life does—you may get derailed while the school moves on with the next topic on the curriculum because there is a schedule for them to follow…We know that’s not what students are buying, we know they want a career and we’re here to help.”
Programs are designed to be beginner-friendly, made to be digestible by students with zero coding experience—career changers like veterans included.
At V School, students have two options: Web Development or UX/UI Design. Both programs have six modules to complete and are riddled with hands-on projects to help students amass a wealth of portfolio materials by the time they graduate.
Ultimately, V School only has one goal: to help you land a rewarding job. As the school said, “You officially graduate when you found a job that you are happy with, even if that job is two, three, or 10 jobs away from your first tech job.” Until then, V School is ready to offer advice and support during your job search.
Alumni also have lifelong access to V School’s curriculum and career team which includes assistance with technical interviews, resumes, and networking.
Unlocking Opportunities in Tech for Hundreds of Vets
Since 2016, V School has helped 114 veterans gain the skills they need to break into tech. Among them is Kacie.
Recollecting her first attempt at coding, Kacie said it was “pretty hard” but it sparked a new interest and so she was determined to get better. She put in over 12 hours of learning every day and was able to complete the modules in just three months.
“I felt a little behind at first but the instructors were fantastic. They’re always there when I need help. If not in person, they’re available over email. They’re very responsive. The commitment to my success is by far the best experience I’ve ever had in any kind of educational facility,” Kacie said.
For others like Taamir Ransome, V School is a place where they get to turn their passion into something bigger. After his deployment, Taamir dabbled into cyber security and computer science but he was still missing the right guidance to pursue tech as a career. After winning the MyBaseGuide + AHRN full scholarship, his future is now taking shape.
“I know what I want to do. I have a whole bunch of ideas in my head, I just don’t have the funds or the know-how to actually do it,” he said. “Companies will hire me once I do have that and become a 1099 guy for five or six really big companies that support the military and be able to give my knowledge and give back to the career field.”
Veterans Helping Other Veterans
At V School, the support extends beyond the classroom. Veterans who have graduated from V School have taken the initiative to form a Community Mentor group offering support to other students who are starting their V School journey. These mentors also provide valuable feedback to the school and act as brand advocates for V School.
Mentors will walk students through the three stages of V School: skills, experience, and career. They provide weekly video check-ins with students, daily direct messaging, personalized goal planning, custom strategy and timelines, expert career-prep coaching, proven LinkedIn tips and tricks, and job-winning resume and cover letter guidance.
Nathan Sutherland, a mentor and an Advisory Boardmember at V School, said the most rewarding part about mentoring is being a driving force that helps people change their lives through their careers.
“When people go into the military, they leave their own identities behind and take on the challenges of new, unique military roles. When they return to civilian life, they have to unlearn many parts of their job and try to become citizens again. The journey of finding yourself again can be difficult. I found a renewed appreciation for our veteran’s sacrifice.”
“I was working with recent alumni who said to me, right after being hired, ‘Thank you. Thank you so much. You changed my life’. That’s the kind of stuff that makes me eager to wake up and do it all again.”
Launch Your Tech Career With V School
V School is focused on helping committed and talented individuals—regardless of background, experience, and life circumstance—explore exciting roles in tech. It strives to eliminate all barriers to entry, as evident in Kacie’s story. What started as a simple question unfurled into a new financing system benefiting all veterans looking to build a new career through V School.
“There is not a reason that we can’t work with you,” V School said. “As long as you have the aptitude to learn to code and you’re willing to do the pre-course work and you can score high enough on the assessment and get accepted, we’ll find a way to fund it. Even if it means, on our side, crafting our own payment plan with you.”
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official US government website at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill
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