Columbus, Ga – Sergeant First Class April Kelley spent over two decades in the US Army. Her military career started when she was just 19 years old, and the only girl of five boys lived all over the country.

“I traveled from D.C. to Alaska, back to Texas, then Maryland and then Hawaii, and then here to Georgia,” said Kelley.

At the 15 year mark, Sergeant Kelly started to think about her life after the uniform. Now, that also meant Sergeant Kelly had to think about life as just April Kelly, the civilian.

“Because it’s stressful leaving active duty and becoming a civilian again. You know, learning a new identity,” said Kelley.

Part of learning that new identity meant getting a degree in human resources from Columbus State University. Now, for many veterans, going back to the classroom can be a daunting task.

“It is a lot of nervousness. And it’s because that, you know, they haven’t taken any courses in a long time, any college courses. So when they get here, then we want to make them to feel at home. So we walk them through the process, show them the steps, what they have to do to come to take classes with us,” said CSU Military Enrollment Coordinator Willie Harris.

April worked hand in hand with CSU’s Veterans Affairs Office and couldn’t wait to get back into the classroom.

“I know I wanted to do face to face because during my 20 years I didn’t really do a lot of in-person classes, so I wanted to do that.”

Going to class also meant that some of April’s classmates are students who are much younger, and for many vets, that kind of setting can be intimidating. But it actually turned into a great asset for a CSU classroom.

“The young people come for and they take them under their, you know, their their arms or whatever. They they just take them and and bring them along with them and everything,” said Harris.

And now April is just a few credits away from crossing the graduation stage. She shared some advice for veterans who are thinking about pursuing a college degree.

“Once you’re gone, someone’s going to replace you and take care of those soldiers that you’re leaving behind for them to follow in your footsteps or decide to go a different route and get out and go back to school themselves. But just take your time,” said Kelley.

For those veterans looking to pursue higher education there’s a good military presence on the Columbus State campus. Around 1,200 active duty servicemembers, veterans and their family members make up the CSU student body.