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December 4, 2020
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RP Foundation issues grant

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
November 9, 2018

One recipient of the 2018 small grants issued by the Rohnert Park Foundation is the SSU Student Veteran Organization (SVO) that is planning to use the $1,400 grant to support networking that connects military veteran students with Sonoma County veteran-related services. The university estimates that they currently have up to 100 veteran, reservist and active-duty students, as well as another 200 to 250 military dependents. SVO is the student-run arm of the university’s military and veteran programs. “When you’re looking at working with a special population of students the best way to serve them is not only to provide actual direct service to the students in terms of what the university provides, but also allowing for the students themselves to take an active role in what that looks like,” says Alvin Nguyen, Director of the Center for Transfer and Transition Programs at Sonoma State University which oversees the university’s military and veteran programs. “That’s why we wanted to make sure that, as we created this military and veteran programs department, we would also concurrently create a student veteran organization, so that both sides of the coin are paying attention to what it is that we’re doing. “The university has provided veteran services for many years, initially for the main purpose of guiding students in using their education VA benefits and helping them get the funding for their schooling. Over time more robust veteran services were added beyond just certifying education benefits to support veteran students throughout their whole education process, from being a prospective student, through the admission and orientation process, to academic advising and support while attending the university. “They are a special population of students that have a lot to offer in terms of life experience,” says Nguyen. “However it can also be a very challenging process in terms of some of the bureaucracy that comes with it, what it means to transition to civilian life, what it means to transition to university life, and what it means to acclimate to an environment where there’s a lot of traditional college age students. We want to be able to support them in that but at the same time empower them and make their presence known on the campus in terms of the things that they’re able to contribute to the community. “The Student Veteran Organization aims to provide a safe community for students at SSU not affiliated with any political stances. It serves as a welcoming body of like-minded people whose personal and academic success are a top priority, and facilitates academic success through mentorship and needed support. SVO promotes camaraderie through social events, encourages discussion of ways to improve the organization and creates a positive image in the surrounding area through community service. This week the university’s veteran services launched “Veterans Week” to focus on increasing visibility and awareness about military-connected students on campus. On Monday the Military Veteran Programs department held an open house where military-connected students could receive discount cards to various services on campus. On Tuesday SVO hosted a lunch, on Wednesday SVO co-hosted a bowling night, on Thursday the university hosted a faculty center training with Mike Ergo, Director of the North Bay Vet Center and a panel of student veterans to discuss common misconceptions about veterans and Friday a transfer orientation took place, for student veterans transferring from other colleges. “For our Veterans Week a lot of what we’re doing is around awareness building,” says Nguyen. “In Rohnert Park there are these big pole banners of all of these folks from Rohnert Park that are actively serving. I thought that sends a really strong message. So we’ve actually replicated the same thing here at Sonoma State and are highlighting some of our students who are active and in our Student Veteran Organization on these pole banners throughout our campus. It’s kind of a tandem salute to our folks. “Nguyen hopes the Rohnert Park Foundation grant will allow students to interface more with the community, help veteran students feel supported and assist them in the university attendance process from beginning through graduation. “We want our Student Veteran Organization to be able to interface with community members,” says Nguyen. “If local businesses in our community are seeking to hire student veterans upon graduation or while they’re in college, because these folks have higher levels of security clearance, we know that they have discipline, integrity and the work ethic to do well, then we would be able to drive into the community a very positive workforce. That will allow for the community to see that we are graduating high grade student veterans and pumping them into the local community and local businesses.”