Holy shit, yeah, Everest is one of those for profit colleges. It's absolutely insane to think that these places actually exist.
A lot of my old friends are in the military. They either never went to college and ended up joining the military almost right away, or they went to college, dropped the idea for one reason or another, and joined the military as a backup. For a lot of people, there's a lot of appeal to becoming a serviceman. Garunteed pay, decent benefits while you're active and after (kind of, the VA is actually pretty fucked up), a promotional structure, on the job training, etc. The only downside is, a few of them have decided that career military is not the way for them to go, so when their time of service is up, they don't re-up. Now they're almost back where they started, because despite what military recruiters tell you, on the job military training doesn't always translate to marketable skills in the civilian world.
As for poor neighborhoods, while the actual risk of being a victim of a crime is statistically higher, sometimes people blow it a little out of proportion. However, whether or not you actually ever get stabbed or mugged or burgled is a bit of a moot point. The environment alone can be draining. When you're not home, you're worried about your possessions at home and whether or not they're safe. When the neighbors down the way are being loud as fuck for a place that already has thin walls, up until 3 o'clock in the morning, the loss of sleep has a very real impact on your mood and ability to be productive. When the pipes in your apartment building freeze and burst and your landlord takes a week to fix them because he doesn't give a fuck about the law, there goes your ability to shower and make yourself coffee. On and on it goes. Not only that, but I sometimes think that the actual worry of being harmed is more damaging than actually being harmed. It can be really difficult.
I mean I got lucky in a lot of ways.
We've both been very lucky and I think the majority of the people on Hubski feel the exact same way. In comparison to what's going on in a lot of the world, we have it pretty alright. You gotta give yourself credit though, cause luck is only the half of it. You're also smart and it sounds like you're hard working as well. You've made some good, well thought out decisions to get you where you are in life right now and if you keep making good decisions, you'll probably turn out a little "luckier" every year. You got a lot to be proud of. :)