The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

GV fosters community among veterans

GVL | Sam Nelson

Every year on Veterans Day, Grand Valley State University acknowledges and celebrates students, faculty and staff who served the U.S. currently or in the past.

The GVSU community has many resources on campus for veterans throughout the year in addition to special events they hold on Veterans Day. These events help to establish a comfortable and supportive community for student veterans.

This year the Office of the President hosted their 13th Annual Veteran’s Day Breakfast, where attendees enjoyed breakfast and conversation with President Philomena Mantella. Special guest Lieutenant Jason Redman, a retired Navy SEAL was also in attendance to give remarks. 

Laker Vets, a student organization for student veterans and veteran family members hosted a 5K run on Nov. 11 to commemorate the day and raise money for the Student Veterans Association’s (SVA)  National Conference (Natcon). NatCon is held annually for student veteran groups and individuals to attend and listen to keynote speakers, group discussions and programming. It is the largest annual convening of Post 9/11 veterans in the world.  

“(NatCon is) basically a big networking convention that people go to,” Nathan Schrehg, a member of Laker Vets said.

Aside from the Veterans Day 5K and other fundraising efforts, the Laker Vets plans to continue programming and planning outreach events to make a presence on campus. Sierra Zelenka, outreach coordinator for Laker Vets, said the organization already has some ideas in progress, such as getting together for tailgates before football games. 

In addition to being a student organization, the Peter Secchia Military and Veterans Resource Center hosted the Laker Vets at the lounges on both the Allendale and Pew campuses. The Allendale campus’ lounge called the Laker Military Resource Center was recently moved to the bottom level of Kirkhof Center, to accommodate the growing student need. The location of the second Grand Rapids lounge is in Daniel and Pamella DeVos Center for Interprofessional Health on the Health Campus. The room is furnished with couches, TV and gaming equipment, as well as study spaces.

The club hopes these spaces will offer student veterans a place to find community on campus. The aim of the space was always to offer students a place on campus to speak freely and connect with those who share similar experiences. 

“My first week on campus, I didn’t know about the lounge initially. I went and sat in my car or just walked around campus,” Zelenka said. 

It serves as a place for students to go, make friends and spend time together. Additionally, the lounge acts as a hub for information about Veteran-centered resources.

“It’s just a good place to come talk with people. If you’re having problems with anything, there’s enough shared knowledge here that we can answer most any question,” Schrehg said. “If we can’t, we can talk to our director and get it figured out from there.” 

Many students seek benefits from the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Eligible students can receive 48 months of tuition assistance, housing allowance and textbook assistance. Other students can qualify for Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E). This resource can assist with “job training, education, employment accommodations, resume development and job seeking skills coaching.” 

Both Schrehg and Zelenka said the resource center has been one of the most beneficial resources to them while adjusting to life at GVSU. The average age of a student vet is 24-40 years old, higher than the average college student. This age difference combined with military experience can make pursuing an education an isolating experience. 

“I feel like overall, in a sense, (we) have our own little family here,” Zelenka said. “We’re not feeling excluded. It’s like a little home on campus, to sound cheesy. (The Center) provides a place of comfort.” 

More to Discover