Javier Centonzio - Gulfport, FL

What motivated you to enter/return to college after your military service?

I decided to pursue my education after the death of my friend and fellow soldier, Sgt, Jesse Davila. We had talked about our plans after returning from Iraq, and I had told him of my lifelong goal of becoming an attorney. Once I returned from Iraq in 2006, I started at Park University with no college experience, and now I am in my first year of law school at Stetson University College of Law.

What did you hope to achieve out of your college experience?

I wanted to get through my undergraduate degree with the highest GPA possible, in order to be accepted to law school. I also wanted to immerse myself in different perspectives and opinions, in order to become a more reasonable and well-rounded person.

What was one of the most difficult aspects of entering college after your military experience?

The most difficult aspect was getting over the fear of being an outsider and an older student. I had been out of high school for so long that I had lost the confidence in my ability to study effectively and do well in the classroom.

What have the educational benefits of the GI Bill meant to you?

The GI Bill reduced the amount of debt that I have to pay back after my education is complete. I am happy to see the new GI Bill in place to address the cost of living expenses and the cost of books. If I had that available to me, my debt would be close to zero.

What is the biggest payoff of attending college after military service?

The biggest payoff is going to be the first veteran that I help give access to justice when I am a new attorney. Attending college has helped me tremendously in readjusting to civilian life.

What advice would you give to a member of the military who hopes to attend college after completing military service?

I would tell them to start as soon as possible and don’t look back. Seek out the benefits and services they have earned, and that our brothers and sisters have died for us to obtain. Keep those who have sacrificed their lives for us close to their hearts and in their minds at all times, especially when times get hard and they feel like quitting. Pursue a degree in a field that helps others and allows you to keep serving others.