Veteran Discovers Second Chance at Higher Ed with GS

After a childhood spent in Cuba and a military career focused on combat training, Jorge Pintado took an unexpected route into an Ivy League education—a place he never thought he would end up. Today, he is exploring his personal and familial background as a Latin American and Caribbean studies major on his way to pursuing a graduate degree in international studies or law.

By
Kathrin Havrilla-Sanchez
November 12, 2019

Jorge Pintado was just seven years old when he emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba with his mother and sister, reuniting with his father and his paternal grandmother in Miami. He grew up in a tough neighborhood and didn’t find his education to be particularly fulfilling.

“I was not what you would call ‘an academic’ at the time,” laughs Pintado.

After high school, Pintado spent some time working in the auto retail industry in Florida before joining the U.S. Army at age 24. Pintado worked his way up as an Army Ranger from rifleman, to machine gunner, to team leader. About halfway through his service, he realized that not only had he joined the military a bit late in life, but he also didn’t see himself undertaking a 20-year career.

I love being able to meet veterans who are in the same place I was not too long ago. I share my story and give them some tips and tricks on how I have made the transition from the military to an Ivy League education.

Jorge Pintado

Around the same time, Pintado also learned about the Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP), a nonprofit that helps enlisted military veterans bridge the skills gap between the battlefield and the classroom on their road to a four-year degree. He realized it could be the perfect way to improve his academic history and prepare for life at a top-tier university.

“I knew I wanted to get my college degree while I was still kind of young,” recalls Pintado. “I started considering my options, and I had always been fascinated by New York City. When I discovered that Columbia’s School of General Studies had a long history of helping veterans and was associated with WSP, that connection immediately stood out to me.”

Columbia is proud to be a host university for the Warrior-Scholar Project—one of the few Ivy League institutions involved in this rewarding program.

Columbia doesn’t just say that they strive for diversity—their actions back it up.

Jorge Pintado

Pintado finished his Army service on June 12, 2018, and in July, he completed a one-week intensive academic boot camp through WSP at the University of Pennsylvania. Shortly thereafter, he found out that he had been accepted to GS.

“Columbia took a huge chance on me, and I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this community,” says Pintado. “I worked really hard to be ready for the education that was being offered to me, and I had to create a system that would allow me to survive in this new world.”

Pintado’s connection to WSP continues to this day. Not only is he an alumni ambassador, but he was also invited to be a Mobile Training Team Fellow, mentoring current participants and coordinating with on-campus staff.

“I love being able to meet veterans who are in the same place I was not too long ago,” says Pintado. “I share my story and give them some tips and tricks on how I have made the transition from the military to an Ivy League education.”

For Pintado, Columbia stands out from the crowd for veterans like himself and others in part because the university has an entire school dedicated to the non-traditional student.

“GS is an amalgamation of characters from all over the world and all life experiences,” says Pintado. “Columbia doesn’t just say that they strive for diversity—their actions back it up.”

As he looks ahead to the future, Pintado envisions either obtaining his master’s degree in International Studies from Columbia’s School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA) or continuing on to law school.