- Associated Press - Thursday, June 5, 2014

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The number of military veterans graduating from the Community College of Vermont this weekend is up over last year and college officials expect the number to continue to increase.

Forty-one veterans and an additional 17 people connected to the military are expected to be among the more than 550 graduates who will be receiving their diplomas Saturday in the ceremony at Norwich University in Northfield. That’s up from the 35 veterans and six students with military connections who graduated last year.

Among this year’s graduates will be Trista Acebo, 27, who spent joined the Marines and served tours in in Iraq and Afghanistan. She is still part of the Marine Corps reserve.

Acebo used her VA benefits to help pay for her CCV education, studying three-quarters time while working full-time in her home town of Essex Junction.

“I’m still not entirely sure where I’m going after this, but I wanted to have some type of degree,” said Acebo, who hopes to move to New York City within the next year.

Acebo said her military service helped focus her studies.

“Right when I got out of high school there was no way I ever thought I’d be graduating this Saturday with a college degree,” said Acebo, who graduated from Essex High School a decade ago.

CCV is the largest of the five Vermont State Colleges, with about 10,400 students registered for the fall semester.

With the U.S. war in Iraq over and the conflict in Afghanistan winding down, many Vermont service members are returning home and most colleges and universities are setting up programs to help educate them.

At CCV, there is help for veterans navigating the bureaucracy to get their benefits and the school offers a course to help service members make the transition to college, said CCV Director of Student Support Services Heather Weinstein, who is scheduled to become dean of students on July 1.

In addition to the traditional veterans, CCV is graduating 17 students they classify as military-connected. Weinstein said such students could be, among other definitions, a person who is currently serving in the military, the spouse of a veteran or a dependent child of a veteran.

“They are really a gift to have in a class,” Weinstein said. “They bring such unique perspectives and a great maturity and knowledge of the world that many of us will never have.”

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