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ADA, OK (11/09/2017) As president of the National Association of Veterans Upward Bound (NAVUB) programs, East Central University's own Mary Meeks is all about making sure veterans' higher educational needs are being met and that the VUB program is growing to meet those needs.

Meeks, who has been with ECU since 1995 and director of the VUB program since 1999, recently assumed the NAVUB presidency after serving as vice president for the group.

"It's kind of been a whirlwind, but I'm excited to be able to serve for the national organization," said Meeks. "It's a special time to be serving."

According to the Council of Opportunity in Education, at least 55 Veterans Upward Bound programs are currently being funded through grants nationwide and 15 are new. ECU is one of three in Oklahoma with Redlands Community College and the University of Central Oklahoma being the others. The UCO program is new.

"We also have a couple of news ones in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas," Meeks said. "I've been fielding questions from Maine and Rhode Island, all the way across the country. We're trying to help this to be successful."

The VUB program is designed to help veterans further their educational opportunities. VUB gets vets prepared for practically anything involved with higher education such as obtaining transcripts, paying for entrance exams, seeing how V.A. benefits and financial aid can help and even going as far as helping them brush up on their academic skills through tutors.

"We want to help them set up for success and we even help them with housing, transportation and child care," said Meeks. "Our mission is to make sure they connect to the resources they need and to make sure they're successful and ready to get on with their life."

Meeks says the VUB goes as far as helping veterans get into any institution of higher learning, not just ECU.

"We would like for them to come to ECU, but we'll help them go to school anywhere, depending on their needs and what they want to study," Meeks said.

Meeks is also pleased about the new, renewable grant for ECU at $1,452, 450 for the next five years ($290,490 per year).

The grant also enables ECU's VUB to expand its area of coverage from previously 20 counties in Oklahoma, which basically covered the Southeast quadrant of the state, to 19 more counties in the Northeast quadrant, including such places as Tulsa, Okmulgee, Muskogee and Tahlequah.

In the coming days, weeks and months, members of ECU's VUB office will be attending events in those new areas in order to reach out to veterans who live in those communities as well as go to established areas such as Durant, Idabel, McAlester and Shawnee.

NOTE: The ECU VUB is holding a blood drive in the Stanley Wagner Ballroom of ECU's Memorial Student Union, Nov. 15-16, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The blood drive is called the Battle of the Branches. Those who donate blood may do so in the name of their branch of military service or their favorite branch. The branch, with the most donations, will have their logo prominently displayed over the other branches on a t-shirt for the next blood drive.