November 14, 2011
The education that Tracey Gerald received after serving her country with a distinguished record in the Marines helped change her life. The education also happened to come from a career college – or what is sometimes referred to as a for-profit school – a sector of higher education that has recently come under fire in Washington, D.C.
Gerald, who attended Pinnacle Career Institute Online Education, was among the hundreds of successful career college veteran-students that descended on Washington, D.C., on Nov. 3 to share her story with elected officials. The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities hosted the first Veterans’ Hill Day to put the accomplishments of career colleges and their veteran-students in proper perspective.
Today, some elected officials in Washington, D.C., are questioning whether veterans should have the choice to use their earned education benefits at the school that best serves their needs. Since the enactment of the original GI Bill in 1944, career colleges have played a critical role in educating and training our nation’s veterans for the workforce of the present and future. While the number of veteran-students who have attended career colleges over the last 65 years is unknown, these schools have served about 230,000 students under the new Post-9/11 GI Bill.
“I wanted to help the decision makers of our nation put a face to the students who have benefited from using their GI Bill funds to attend career colleges,” Gerald said. “If it wasn’t for career education, I might not have achieved what I wanted in life. They needed to hear our stories.”
After the devastating loss of her twin sister, Stacey, Tracey Gerald turned to the fitness industry to keep her sister’s memory alive. She and Stacey had devoted themselves to athleticism since childhood, running road races and eventually joining the Marine Corps because of the emphasis on exercise and fitness. Without her sister by her side, she felt sad, unhealthy and lost, nothing like the woman who had run her first marathon at only 9.
Eventually, Gerald heard a voice in her head say, “Tracey, take control of your life; take your life back!” She knew that through education to become a personal trainer, she could bring her sister’s legacy to more people than she could ever reach on her own. She began submitting inquiries to schools online, and after several disappointing responses, she found Pinnacle Career Institute Online Education.
Still on active duty with the Marine Corps and traveling extensively, Gerald was limited by her schedule, so Pinnacle Career Institute’s online Personal Trainer program was perfect for her. Gerald began classes at PCI in July 2009 and graduated with her Associate of Occupational Studies in Personal Trainer and her ACE certification in September 2010. Since enrolling at PCI, she has started a career with Ms. Jan Tana, getting professional body builders and figure athletes stage-ready at major competitions.
“If you have a goal, set it, execute it and feel accomplished. Everything I do, I do for Stacey,” Gerald said. “She drives me. I am doing all the things that we were supposed to do together, when she was alive. My life is on track, and I see nothing but success in the future.