Veterans’ education benefits working hard at McDaniel

McDaniel College associate registrar Betsy Atherton with students Joe Schiller and Kira Corn
November 08, 2016

Their stories are as different as can be, but McDaniel students Kira Corn, Shane Douglass and Joe Schiller share one important detail. Along with their own true grit, determination and a lot of hard work, their college educations are being fueled by veterans’ education benefits earned through service to their country.

Corn and Douglass are former Marines who marched from high school to boot camp and on to active service before becoming students at McDaniel. Schiller’s dad, Lee, is a 1988 McDaniel grad and recently retired Army colonel who transferred to his son the benefits he earned over 25-plus years of service that included operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom.

The G.I. Bill’s Yellow Ribbon program funds their college bills, but the motivation and studying is all up to them. That’s where McDaniel earns the Military Friendly rating it's held for eight consecutive years, says Douglass, a defensive end and linebacker on the football team and senior Communication major from Fort Washington, Md.

“There’s great support for veterans here,” says Douglass, who applauds the encouragement and help he’s been given by football coaches and professors alike as well as the college’s veterans’ benefits administrator Betsy Atherton and her predecessor Rose Blizzard. “My teammates helped me tremendously too.

“Derrick Miles, who is now a coach, was a senior during my first year here. He asked me about life stuff — and I asked him about school stuff. It worked out really well.”

Despite filling his passport with round-the-world travel to nearly every continent while protecting President Obama as a Marine MP with the ceremonial guard, Douglass didn’t just ease into the college routine. He was older than both teammates and classmates, and first semester was an adjustment to studying and even going to bed on time. Sharing an apartment with Army vet and Green Terror defensive linebacker Mike Wright helps too, especially when it comes to keeping up with paperwork from the Yellow Ribbon campaign.

Veterans’ education benefits working hard at McDaniel
Veterans on the football field in 2014 (l-r) Mike Wright, Shane Douglass and Jeremy Nagle.

“I always knew I wanted to go to college and play football, but I forgot about tests and mid-terms and papers,” he says, grinning as he explains that he was determined to find his way and make a better life for himself.

Douglass certainly is surmounting that challenge. With an internship in the Library of Audits of the General Service Administration (GSA) in D.C. under his belt, another internship in the Audit division coming up over semester break and a job offer there after graduation, he’s finished what he set out to do — with flourish.

During her five years as an electrician for F/A-18 aircraft, there was never a doubt in Corn’s mind that she would go to college. Married with a 3-year-old daughter, Peyton, she credits Atherton, a retired lieutenant colonel, and her advisor, Psychology professor Stephanie Madsen, with filling in where the Marine Corps left off.

“They’ve definitely been in my corner from the beginning,” says Corn. “It’s funny but when you get out they tell you that you can go to school and it is paid for, but they don’t tell you how to do it.”

A sophomore Psychology major who has her sights set on becoming either a family counselor or earning an advanced degree in applied behavior analysis, Corn has always been academically inclined and now has a work-study position with Atherton helping other vets.

While Schiller isn’t a veteran, he is no stranger to a military life. Both parents served in the Army, with his mom, Christine, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. His brother, Andrew, is a senior at McDaniel and is a cadet in ROTC.

The junior, who grew up all over the country, now calls Frederick, Md., home. He chose McDaniel for its outstanding Exercise Science and Physical Education program.

“Of course I always had connections to McDaniel, but Exercise Science brought me here,” he says. “And I am very grateful to the Yellow Ribbon program and my dad for transferring the benefits he earned to me.”