Lance: Getting Back Into Math

Lance Carmichael

  • U.S. Air Force, eight years
  • General education student
  • Transferring to Foothill College X-ray Technician program, spring 2021

Lance Carmichael near aircraftMy name is Lance and I’m an eight-year Air Force Special Operations veteran. 

I’ve done three tours in Afghanistan and I’m now attending classes at De Anza College. Prior to my military career, I only had my high school diploma. I never entered college or took any other courses after high school was over.

I was trying to take classes while I was in the Air Force, but being in the Special Operations MAJCOM and with my job as a flight line technician and deployments, I had little to no time to take classes. School became a thing of the past for me and I never looked in that direction again, until a few years after my separation from service.

Transitioning to college was very hard for me. Being a combat veteran with PTSD, its very hard for me to meet people who understand where I’m coming from, or understand my personal view on things. Ninety percent of the kids that attend the campus – I say “kids” because they are mostly between the ages of 18-23 – have hardly experienced life and constantly worry about things I find asinine and unimportant. I could just be a bitter veteran but it is what it is. I found myself only hanging out with other veterans in the campus Veteran Services office. Some of the people there were younger but they understood me and my experiences. I felt more at home there.

Campus Resources and Friendship

My biggest challenge during my transition was assimilating with younger students, and also trying to get the hang of classroom mathematics again. Math is a subject that, if you don’t continue working on it, you will definitely forget how to do it. It had been 14 years since I took math in high school and I had the hardest time getting back into it. I found out about the Math Performance Success (MPS) program at De Anza, which helps students like me get back into the swing of mathematics. I love that program and would highly recommend anyone who has been out of school for a while to enlist in the program.

Lance Carmichael on couchThe Veteran Services office on campus, and the other veterans I have met there, have definitely been what has helped me through my college career. Without the help and resources and friendships I have forged there, I don’t think I would be able to navigate my way through these classes. The counselors, the certifying officials and other veterans there are always willing to help me with whatever I need help with.

If I could back and give myself, or anyone else, advice before entering college, I would recommend starting early. Take refresher courses while in the service, to get back on track with math, science, writing or other subjects. That way, you’re not wasting time and using up your GI Bill benefits when you get to school. Also, I would advise future college students to start networking with their campus veterans’ office staff and other veterans who are on campus. They are a wealth of valuable information and will be glad to help you out with anything they can.

I would also recommend talking to your teachers about your issues with the subject. A lot of teachers will be glad to help you if you speak up and let them understand where you are stuck. Tutoring centers are also a huge resource. Most tutoring on campus is free and they are there to help you. Definitely use those programs to your advantage.

– Lance Carmichael, spring 2020

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