Former Marine Prepping for New Challenge

Former Marine Prepping for New Challenge (Photo: Jay Frank)

YAKIMA, Wash. - Jaylene Gomez graduated Wapato High School in 2010, and within a year, joined the U.S. Marine Corps, stationed in Camp Lejeune, NC.

Following her service, Gomez returned to the Yakima Valley, where she is among the many former servicemen and women now making the transition into a new career via higher education.

“Jaylene is a great lady,” says Chris Kinzell, Veteran’s Coordinator at Yakima Valley College, where Gomez is earning her applied bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. “Nothing that’s put in front of her is going to be an obstacle because she’s going to tackle everything the way she did when she came here.”

Kinzell oversees between 100 and 120 veterans and their dependents each academic quarter, by her estimation. She says there are some common challenges.

“They want to go back to the military, they are used to the camaraderie, the structure of the military. This is a whole new world,” Kinzell explains.

For Gomez, the job of a dental hygienist provides some of the same sense of purpose she found in the military.

“I really do enjoy taking them from the state that they are in and making them healthier and seeing changes that I see once I do my job,” says Gomez. “It just make me happy to see smiles and I just want to make people smile.”

President Trump signed into law the “Forever G.I. Bill,” which removes the time limits for access to funds for those whose service ended in or after 2013. Kinzell’s sees it as her job to inform people of these changes, and to encourage them to pursue education.

“Please come back, you’ll never regret getting higher education,” Kinzell says. “Education is never a bad idea, there’s help here when you need it. In the beginning it might seem a little overwhelming, but the end result, with all my other veterans, they’re never sorry that they came back or came into education.”

For more information, contact Chris Kinzell, YVC Veteran’s Coordinator, at 509-574-4715, or

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