Education Fair Prepares Bonhomme Richard Sailors for Back to School 
SAN DIEGO -- USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) held an education fair for Sailors to learn about educational opportunities Aug. 26.

Representatives from 12 colleges and universities, as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Naval Base San Diego Navy College office attended the fair to help potential students learn about degree programs and school funding options available. Attendees included University of Phoenix, Coastline Community College, Thomas Edison State College, University of Maryland and Southern Illinois University.

Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) (AW/SW) Gerardo Bello, the ship's education coordinator and Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuel) 1st Class (AW/SW) Cherry Pizzarelle, assistant education coordinator worked in conjunction with the Naval Station San Diego's Navy College office to organize the event, which took approximately two months of planning.

"The ultimate goal for the education fair is to provide the crew with the information they need to take advantage of educational opportunities," said Bello. "I want all our Sailors to have a chance to take advantage of these programs. When I was an airman, there were not nearly as many programs available that are virtually free as they are today."

Bello said that the timing for the event was strategic as the ship is heading into a maintenance availability for the next several months and will allow interested Bonhomme Richard Sailors the opportunity of in-port time to complete one or two semesters of college course work.

One representative from Coastline Community College, Miles Leader, offered Bonhomme Richard Sailors the opportunity to review their SMART Transcripts to see how much of their existing military credits would transfer to the Sailor's degree program of choice. He said that most Sailors are not aware that they have many transferable college credits already earned just from their military training and experience.

Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class (SW) Richard Hobdy, who is approximately six months away from retirement, said Sailors owe it to themselves to further their education while in the Navy, especially if they plan on eventually moving on to civilian careers.

"I plan on going back to school very soon," said Hobdy, "I was going to college online before the recent deployment. Colleges have told me that I should be very close to having an associate degree with all my credits for military training, so I am checking that out today."

Electrician's Mate Fireman Kristen Bowen said she is interested in Coastline Community College because they have six-week semester programs, which will allow her to get several classes done during the in-port period.

"I think that it is exceptional that Bonhomme Richard has provided us with the means to further our studies," said Bowen, "I think it's perfect timing since we are going into a yard period and I plan on taking advantage of the time to the fullest extent."

"The turnout to the fair has been great. I am planning to make this an annual event for the crew," said Bello. "If our ship's schedule permits, I plan to do this again around this time next year."

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