Veteran Student Lifeline
Emergency Funds Among Critical Resources Available
For Army veteran Regina Campbell, college tuition was just beyond reach without some assistance.
A severe training injury forced her to leave the service before she qualified for the GI Bill’s tuition benefit, and her life as a single mother of three nearly-grown children has been dominated by a series of challenging situations.
Financial strain almost caused her to drop out for the semester. But thankfully, the Veteran Success Center bridges the gap for students like Campbell. She received assistance from the Veterans Emergency Fund, and the 46-year-old is continuing work toward her degree in wildlife biology and pre-veterinary science.
A newly created resource for the Center, the emergency fund is generated by donations. Students who are veterans may apply directly to the Center’s coordinator, Rick Hansen.
Campbell states emphatically that the Veteran Success Center, and OSU, are her oasis.
“I’ve raised my GPA from 1.2 to 2.88,” she says. “Because of the Veterans Emergency Fund, I don’t have to make a choice between paying rent and having reliable transportation to school.”
Another veteran student, Casey Patterson, is among “The Few, the Proud, the Marines.”
Patterson, who is striving to provide stability for her young son, will complete her psychology degree in the spring.
She intends to pursue a master’s and doctorate. Her focus is equine therapy for adults, an interest developed years ago through volunteering in Arkansas and California.
Patterson did qualify for veteran benefits. However, January and February are difficult months to cover since she only receives funding when school is in session. The emergency fund turned her lights back on.
Patterson says the emergency fund let her know that others care about her circumstances, especially as a veteran re-entering civilian life. It is a daily challenge to create a stable home life for herself and her son while also balancing academic success.
“The emergency fund helped me to keep going. When the chips are down and you don’t know where to turn, having someone there for a veteran can give him or her hope, strength and the ability to keep going.”Casey Patterson, Veteran Emergency Fund recipient
Hansen and Amy Cole-Smith find students like Campbell and Patterson by reaching out to colleges and departments on campus. The program they designed is the mecca for veteran students, most of whom are older and recently separated from the military.
Hansen says they promote the emergency fund to donors and alumni at osugiving.com/veterans and also speak about the Center’s mission when they speak in public.
“It is essential to meet emerging needs for veterans who face dropping out due to financial hardship,” he says. “Balancing work and life issues with coursework usually means a need for financial support. But friendships and networking with peers are also critical.”
Hansen says they created the Peer Advisors for Veteran Education program to give students tools to reach out, connect and support each other.
“We work to keep them in school,” he says. “Our goal is for each student to graduate, succeed in life and contribute to society as civilians.”
Former PAVE Team Leader Jonathan Lehman graduated from OSU, and was a peer leader for several years.
“The idea of peers is to have built-in listeners who can share and understand experiences of the incoming student veterans,” he says, adding that peer advisors undergo robust training prior to being assigned to a new student.
“They are volunteers who call upon their own experiences to offer counsel and support,” Lehman says. “Just fitting in can be a challenge, or feeling like one fits in.”
Lehman saw positive outcomes for students, including a single mother who struggled with depression.
“I knew I should offer to help, so I asked how she was doing. I recommended a service which has proved a helpful resource to her,” he says. “Now she knows she is not alone, and that someone is watching out for her. We want her, and other student veterans, to be successful.”