Boots to Roots Seeks to Provide Female and Hispanic Veterans With Agricultural Education Opportunities
According to the National Center for Veteran Analysis and Statistics, women and Hispanic veterans account for a total of 16% of the veteran population as of 2012.
More than any other groups in the military, women and Hispanic veterans are faced with challenges upon returning to civilian life. Generally speaking, it is more difficult for them to find employment, seek further education, and maintain stable lives.
Ken Mix, an assistant professor of agriculture at Texas State University, is overseeing a new program called “Boots to Roots,” a program that seeks to aid female and Hispanic veterans to gain degrees in fields such as agricultural science, mathematics, engineering, and other science and technology-related degrees.
“Both of these demographics are underrepresented in the STEAM (STEM plus agriculture) disciplines,” Mix said. “Essentially, all agriculture is science-based, and the work ethic of veterans is extremely high — which will increase the success of this program and lead to additional opportunities for veterans.”
For Hispanic veterans — particularly female Hispanic veterans — the Boots to Roots program is a timely and necessary provision.
“I look at the VA as the absent parents. Many people have parents as their support and for me the VA is like those parents,” Mickiela Montoya said in an interview on Veterans Day.
The East Los Angeles native joined the National Guard at age 17, seeking stability. She remained in the army for eight years, and served for 545 days in Iraq.
But Montoya had trouble readjusting to civilian life when she returned to California in 2010. She tells Fox News that she had no place to live and had to seek the help of the VA for assistance.
With the VA’s support, Montoya found a home and a job for herself and her daughter and began seeking further education.
Montoya’s story is not an isolated tale.
California is the second state with the largest amount of female Hispanic veterans. The state of Texas is number one.
Many of these individuals have difficulty adjusting to civilian life and experience instability due to financial reasons, health conditions, or PTSD.
Not only do these programs benefit female and Hispanic veterans, but they fill a serious need. According to a recent study by Purdue University, there is a critical need for programs like Boots to Roots, as the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and environmental fields have about 57,900 job openings annually, with only about 35,400 new U.S. graduates in these fields annually.
Agriculture jobs can range from environmental work to dendrology, the study of trees. The Department of Agriculture is a crucial service for the United States, as they provide information and resources for the public on how to preserve and proliferate wildlife; they also offer advice on tree care, such as the importance of trimming trees annually during their dormant seasons.
“It is crucial that HSIs embrace veterans as they look at educational opportunities in STEM and agricultural sciences,” said Irma Lawrence, national program leader for NIFA’s HSI program. “Grants such as this are a great way of saying thank you to vets for their contributions to protect the freedom that we enjoy. This program helps underrepresented veterans retrain and reintegrate themselves into their communities and help meet the nation’s STEM and agricultural sciences workforce demands.”