READING, Pa. — Walking onto a college campus after leaving the military can be an uncomfortable experience for student veterans. To help remedy this issue, Penn State Berks has dedicated space for an Adult and Veterans Lounge on campus to help veterans feel more connected on campus. The grand opening will be held on Friday, Jan. 13, with a brief ceremony beginning at 9:15 a.m. in Room 325 of the Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building. The event is open to the campus community and light refreshments will be served.
Chancellor R. Keith Hillkirk and the campus' Student Veterans Organization officers will be present to cut the ceremonial ribbon and officially dedicate the space, which will serve student veterans, as well as all adult learners on campus.
The Student Veterans of America chapter at Penn State Berks received a $10,000 grant from a Vet Center Initiative funded by The Home Depot Foundation and SVA. The grant was used to transform space in the Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building into the new Adult and Veterans Lounge.
According to Joseph Webb, director of Student Support Services and adviser to the SVA chapter, the campus used the funding to purchase new furniture, a television, a refrigerator, and a microwave, as well as to renovate the space with a new coat of paint, and ultimately create a home-away-from-home for student veterans.
“Since many veterans commute to school, have jobs, or juggle other responsibilities, having a place on campus to connect to other veterans and resources can be invaluable,” Webb said. “As a student organization dedicated to supporting veterans, the SVA officers wanted to create a veteran center on campus to support their fellow veterans, while also leaving a legacy of service to future Penn State Berks student veterans.”
Tiffany Csicsek, a student veteran studying criminal justice and an officer in the SVA chapter at Penn State Berks, commented, “I’m looking for a community I can participate in. As a veteran and a nontraditional student, it's hard to relate to students in my classes about what I’ve done with my life. I hope the Student Veteran Association can use the space for meetings and get-togethers where veterans can have feel comfortable talking to one another.”
Student Veterans of America and The Home Depot Foundation teamed up in 2014 to launch the Vet Center Initiative, offering SVA chapters a chance to compete for up to $10,000 in grant money to build or renovate a veteran center. By 2015, 61 campuses earned $500,000 to build or rehabilitate veteran centers that benefit more than 30,000 student veterans. In 2016, 50 campus communities were awarded grants of up to $10,000.
Student Veterans of America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit coalition of more than 1,300 student veteran chapters, representing over 540,000 veterans in higher education across the country. SVA's mission is to provide military veterans with the resources, support, and advocacy to ease veteran and active military students' transition into higher education and leverage military experience to launch successful careers in high-demand fields after graduation. For more information, visit www.studentveterans.org.
The Penn State Berks SVA chapter’s mission is to help student veterans achieve their educational goals at Penn State Berks while providing an environment in which student veterans have the opportunity to support and socialize with one another. The chapter serves as a source of information, support, representation, and camaraderie to any and all students of prior and current military service seeking education at Penn State Berks.