My name is Kristofer Goldsmith. I am a U.S. Army Veteran and I attended Nassau Community College before transferring to Columbia University.
Supporting the free community college movement means continuing to serve my country – even after taking off the uniform. Going to community college saved my life. I want every American to be able to have that experience by reducing the barriers people face.
This is my story.
Though I excelled during my Army training, I wasn’t fully prepared for the things I would experience during my deployment to Iraq in 2005. Before my tour of duty, I had never heard of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Yet at age 19, being so very so close to death shook me to my core.
When I returned from my year-long deployment I suffered from severe bouts of depression and panic attacks that made be feel like I was dying. While still on Active Duty, I attempted suicide. The Army kicked me out with a less than honorable discharge, losing me my GI Benefits. I couldn’t imagine that I’d ever move forward in my life.
Thankfully, I still had access to VA health care – and with the help of some great doctors – I started to turn my life around. It took time, but I eventually overcame my PTSD, depression, and alcoholism. A Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor at the VA encouraged me to enroll at Nassau Community College. That experience transformed my life and got me where I am today.
At first, balancing life and school was overwhelming. But I found a supportive community through Student Veterans of America (SVA) on campus and met a mentor, Chuck Cutolo, who helped me find my voice advocating for student veterans like me. I went from being the shy guy who sat quietly in the veterans’ lounge to being elected President of the SVA chapter and leading a group of student veterans to Washington, DC to advocate for benefits.
Two years ago, I opened a letter that would change my life; I been accepted to Columbia University. There’s no way I would be where I am today without my experience at Nassau Community College.
My biggest obstacle through all of this was learning to balance my life; having to worry about bills while all of this was going on was really stressful and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
That’s why I support free community college, which would help veterans like me – who aren’t eligible for the GI Bill or who risk running out of GI funding before obtaining a bachelors’ degree because of remedial courses. Veterans have very real struggles in attending school after serving. Free community college could help us find the education and the community we need for life off the battle field.