My year up began before I was born. My paternal grandfather served in the Navy during World War II, and fought during D-Day. When he returned home, the GI Bill gave him the resources to own his home, which he would have not been able to afford otherwise on his baker’s salary.
This was a game changer for my family. Suddenly, my grandfather was able to save money, which he used to pay for my dad’s tuition at Carnegie Mellon University. My dad was the first in our family to earn a Bachelor’s degree, and he graduated debt-free. This set me up to a life where education was expected and funded. All of my future opportunities – internships, jobs, travel, volunteer opportunities – stemmed from this.
However, GI Bill benefits were not distributed evenly. Most benefits , like education and housing funding, were not available to veterans of color. This means that my year up – the one that enabled me to pursue my passions while living comfortably – systemically lifted some up while leaving others behind. I have dedicated my life to social justice movements because I believe I have a personal stake in closing the Opportunity Divide for those who were left behind by the GI Bill and other systemic opportunity builders.