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Meet Riley Wright, a student in the NLU Veterans Program

photoTell us about yourself.

I grew up in California and moved to Texas at age 14 and then moved again to South Carolina. When I graduated from high school, I wanted to be a criminologist and get as much experience as I could. However, I discovered that I had to be at least 21 to be a criminologist. I wanted to get solid hands-on experience in the field, so I joined the Army at age 18 and served for five years in Germany and Fort Carson, CO.

I knew that as soon as I got out of the Army, I would go back to school to pursue my degree. I returned to civilian life in the fall of 2009. I am married now and have a six-month-old daughter. I live in Algonquin, IL, and attend National Louis University’s Chicago campus once per week.

What was the most challenging part about returning to civilian and academic life?

I am not working at all now, as I attend school and care for my daughter, so that was a big adjustment from military life. Also, in the military it’s much more defined. You have a goal at hand, and you reach it fairly quickly. While I know that my goal is to graduate and pursue my career goals, it isn’t as tangible as it was when I was in the military and will take a bit longer.

Why did you select NLU?

I chose NLU because after leaving the military, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. I have several friends who are teachers and highly recommended the program at NLU. I still had an interest in criminology, but didn’t think there were many career opportunities in that field, so I planned to earn a bachelor’s degree in behavioral sciences and then pursue a masters in teaching. However, upon further research, I realized that there were a lot of opportunities for me in the field of criminology, so I am focusing on that, and I’m scheduled to graduate this spring.

I love it at NLU. I’m in a cohort, so I take classes with the same small group of people for the entire 15 months I’m in the program. The teachers are so understanding. They realize that many of us have families, jobs, etc. My cohort has been a huge support as well.

How has NLU’s Veterans Program helped you, as a veteran military student, the most?

The Veterans Program really helped me maximize my GI Bill benefits. I research everything before I move forward with a decision, so I already knew a lot about what I needed to do. NLU helped make sure that I was on the right path with my GI Bill benefits. They helped me understand how to use the Yellow Ribbon Program, which helps me pay for any tuition that is not covered by the GI Bill benefit.

What should other potential student veterans know about NLU that they might not already know?

I highly recommend that potential student veterans do a lot of research before selecting a school. Look at how to use the GI Bill benefit first and then compare that with how each school is set up. For example, see if the school has a quarter or semester system. That will affect how often you receive your GI Bill benefit.

Also, try to take full advantage of the resources that the school offers. I see a lot of resources at NLU that I didn’t use but wish I did -– especially within the Veterans Program.