SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) -The Veterans Upward Bound Program is designed to help veterans gain the skills they need to navigate through college and get their degree.
Over at Southern University at Shreveport, Urina Holt serves as the university’s Upward Bound’s director and has a passion for helping these veterans.
“I wanted to be able to assist them in getting back into school, being able to use their G.I. Bill (and) showing them their directions,” she said.
She not only likes to help — but also listen.
“Each veteran has a story and sometimes they want to share it to somebody who’s interested and can relate to that story," she said.
Holt can relate because she too is also a veteran — joining the United States Marine Corps back in 1984.
“I didn’t tell a soul that I was going to join the Marine Corps," Holt said. "Didn’t tell my mom or anybody. I knew my mom was going to talk me out of it so when it was the right time for me leave, about a week before it was time for me to depart, I (told) my mom.”
Soon she was on a plane headed west getting ready for an eye-opening experience: boot camp.
“You talk about a rude awakening," she said. “So all of a sudden it’s like five-thirty in the morning and you see trashcans coming down, literally down, and you hear 20-30 people screaming and hollering and I’m laying and I’m thinking surely they don’t want me to get up."
For the next few months she and roughly 60 other women tackled boot camp together.
“I had three or four voices (in my ear) so it’s the discipline," she said. "It was great. You learn to do what they are asking you to do.”
After boot camp, Holt went to Camp Pendleton where she worked in a warehouse as a supply admin, but the Marine Corps helped her realize some things about herself.
“I enjoyed running, I was athletic," she said. "I enjoyed lifting weights, so it brought out some things that were already inside of me that I did not realize I was capable of doing.”
In 1989 she left and returned back to Louisiana where she worked in the Marine Corps Reserves until 1991. She eventually began working at SUSLA and has been for the last 15 years.
“I thank God that he’s given me an even more listening skill so that I can hear their story and share," Holt said. “They have somebody that they can confide inside."
Now, she’s forever grateful her story has been shared so that she can help other veterans share theirs too. Holt hopes to help create more programs at SUSLA for veterans.