Over the next few years, more than a million service men and women will end their military careers and transition back to civilian life. Many of these veterans will decide to go back to school to finish their degrees, enroll in a community college for the first time, or work to obtain a master’s degree.
That’s why, on our campus communities, we need to make sure that our veterans have access to the programs that will help them succeed and obtain good jobs to support their families.
This April, as we mark the second anniversary of Joining Forces, I am pleased to be visiting several higher education institutions to learn more about what they are doing to support student veterans.
On Wednesday, I visited George Washington University to meet with student veterans and hear about several of their initiatives. While I was there, I heard from members of GW Vets, their student group representing more than 1,500 student veterans, military dependent students and allies across campus.
One of those students was Nichole Krom, a freshman who became involved in GW Vets as soon as she heard about it and is now the organization’s secretary. Nichole is not a veteran herself, but her father recently retired from the New York Air National Guard. She is a wonderful example of an important truth about our service men and women who sacrifice so much for our country – their families serve right alongside them.
Throughout the panel discussion, I heard how the campus is actively engaged in finding ways to make the student veteran transition into the civilian sector seamless.
Elena Kim, a U.S Army veteran and senior at GWU, described a program called The Rendering Project, which is a partnership between GWU and local schools. Through the program, high school students are creating works of art based on testimonials written by GW student-veterans, military personnel and families. The idea behind the program is simple – all of our service men and women have a unique story to tell – and the connection with the civilian population strengthens understanding of the sacrifices and experiences of our service members.
I also heard about The Ribbon Project, a new initiative being launched that will help train faculty and staff – by student veterans – on how to better integrate the veteran experience into the classroom and campus life.
As a teacher for more than 30 years, I always say that what I see in my classroom is inspiring. Many of my students are veterans who are hoping additional education will help move them ahead in their careers.
So as we continue to look toward the best practices that will support our student veterans over the coming years, I was pleased to learn more about the creative ideas and programs being implemented at GWU.
Nichole put it best when she described her experience with GW Vets: “We are more than just a student organization – we are family.”