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Local veteran struggles to re-educate himself

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

An Erie Community College student and veteran says he is struggling financially as he awaits distribution of his awarded scholarship funds. Randy Camp brought his story to WBFO's Focus on Education reporter Eileen Buckley who talked with Camp and ECC's leader of veteran services. 

Randy Camp is a soft-spoken gentleman originally from Virginia. He's an Air Force veteran who served post-Vietnam from 1979 to 1985.  "Mostly my time was served in Japan and Korea. I love the Far East," said Camp. 

One of his oldest daughter's lives in Buffalo so he decided to move to the region.  Camp worked at the Buffalo VA as a nursing assistant for five years.  While there he discovered the Veterans Retraining Assistance program. It allows veterans to retrain and go back to school.  That's when Camp decided to attend ECC.

"I stopped working at the VA. The funds ended in early 2014. TAP and PELL was covering a lot of my finances. The V-Rep monthly stipend that was very helpful -- whatever financial worries -- the bills, rent -- that stipend was so great, but when that program ended that's when I ran into a little trouble," said Camp.
Camp was the recipient of the David Conley Perseverance Scholarship at ECC.  It's a $3,000 scholarship awarded to a veteran attending the school for outstanding community involvement and academics.   He did receive TAP and PELL funds to cover his tuition, but he says even as of this week, he's still waiting for his scholarship money to help with daily living expenses.

"The scholarship money is never directly handed to a student.  The donor knows and the donor's specifically states -- that goes toward paying the academic expenses -- the tuition -- the fees," said Dan Frontera, Veterans Services Coordinator at ECC.

Frontera said they've been trying to assist Camp since he made an initial request over the mid-summer. He first asked for his TAP and PELL funds before the fall semester started.

"When he came in too see what we could do financially see what we could do financially for him because he needed better cloths for his internship.  We expressed to him we don't have the type of resources, but did refer him a Veteran's One-Stop facility in Buffalo that would help him. He didn't want to work within their perimeters, so that led into the letter to the president," said Frontera.

Camp read the letter he wrote to ECC President Jack Quinn. "Mr. Quinn -- I'm in a financial bind -- I'm a straight 'A' student. Three times Dean's list.  I let him know the V-Rep program ended  and it hurt me financially. - This letter was stating Mr. Quinn can you please intervene?", said Camp. 

"In his case -- the scholarship money was applied to tuition and aid.  He received a balance of his financial aid back in the third week of October," said Frontera.

Camp said it's tough to wait for the funds. He claims he's a regular at the local food pantry's and soup kitchens. Camp is hopeful his scholarship money will arrive sometime next week.  

"Every time that Randy has gotten his scholarship funds because it came so late all of his academic needs was already met because of TAP and PELL.  By the time ECC money comes -- it becomes Christmas money ...because it comes too late," stated Camp.

ECC is known for serving veterans.  In fact last week we reported the school has worked with more than 60,000 since 1946.   

“We really try to do everything we can, especially in a population such as our student veterans. So we have connected our veterans to other resources --job resources, skill resources -- to go out and at least hold down at least a part-time position," said Frontera.

Randy Camp is not working. He's a full time student. Camp is majoring in Mental Health and Substance Abuse studies. He's also a novelist.  He authored the book Wet Matches  winning a national fiction contest in 2013.  Camp's bio on Amazon says he is devoting more time to his writing career as he is working on his next novel.