What’s harder than serving your country in the United States Armed Forces? Leaving the military life behind to return to the civilian world. Readjusting to the less-regimented, quieter existence takes time, possibly more so than leaving it behind for the military upon enlisting.
One of the easier ways to make the transition is attending college. Sullivan University has a program to help those making the return to civilian life, including a chapter of Student Veterans of America, whose mission is to “provide military veterans with the resources, support, and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and following graduation.”
“What Student Veterans of America does is help our student veterans integrate back into going to school,” said Angel Rivera, president of Student Veterans of America Chapter #227 at Sullivan University. “Assistance includes: academic support; personal and professional networking; mentoring; and advocacy for benefits and entitlements. We promote and continue to practice the values and traditions that service members have adopted, and to expand our goodwill to our local community here in Louisville.”
SVA offers other resources such as a mailing list for information on scholarships available through the organization, online seminars, and a support system of veterans to provide camaraderie and help to each other through the transition from soldier to civilian.
The biggest challenge facing such veterans, according to Rivera? The difference in structure:
“Speaking from my experience, military veterans come from a rigid structure — things are this way and that way. When you’re in the military, you’re taught from a technical manual. When you’re in school, you interact with folks that probably don’t have military experience; there are different points of views. But mainly, it’s getting used to the civilian life.”
Since 2012, SVA #227 has welcomed around 250 to 300 members into its ranks, 65 of whom are current members of the chapter. The chapter frequently teams up with local nonprofits — such as Active Heroes, Habitat For Humanity, and Love Transformation Project — to help those in need like those experiencing homelessness in Louisville, which includes a large number of military veterans. Rivera says #227 also links up veterans to local services in the city which are low-cost or free of charge, as well as team up with Robley Rex VA Medical Center on Zorn Avenue to educate its members and other veterans about the VA system and benefits.
Though the Student Veterans of America chapter at Sullivan does a lot for its membership and those in need throughout Louisville, it also likes to help the university’s student body now and again.
“We have some fundraisers, like Dress-Down Wednesdays,” said Rivera. “Wednesday is Professional Dress Day here at the school. We get here early [to set up], and for two dollars, students can buy a bracelet so they don’t have to dress professionally.”
Fundraisers such as Dress Down Day help the SVA chapter continue their mission of providing outreach to student veterans, and to create events that cater to Sullivan’s student veteran population.
Information about the Student Veterans of America chapter at Sullivan can be found by visiting the chapter’s Facebook page, through flyers around the campus, and by meeting with representatives at student orientation and various events.
“We have a flagpole that is nicely decorated with the flags of all services, including the Coast Guard,” said Rivera. “And we’re boisterous. We’re very boisterous. I had the honor of being interviewed by another paper in town. The school posted it on their page, and it was like, ‘I saw you! What was that all about?’ This is who we are, and this is what we do. Please join us.”
Military veterans looking toward their post-military career have nothing to fear at Sullivan University. New students will have a personal military contact person as their single point of contact during the admissions process to make the first step back into civilian life as easy as possible. All G.I. Bill benefits are welcome, military experience can be transferred into college credit, and those still serving receive reduced tuition.
For more information, visit online at sullivan.edu/military-students-at-sullivan-university, or call 502-456-6505.