As veterans, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of non-government resources that can help you. We’re interested in connecting you to those resources, whatever your needs. Today, we’re investigating and explaining a resource for your educational needs: the Student Veterans of America.
We hope you’ll be able to learn about this organization, and then contact them and get the assistance you need.
What are Student Veterans of America?
Student Veterans of America is a not-for-profit organization formed in 2008 whose purpose is to help provide military vets with the support and resources to attain a higher education and have success after school.
It is well-known for acting as an umbrella organization for advocates of student veterans seeking improvements in veteran education benefits.
The SVA operates by having two components: the leadership staff located at the national headquarters, and the chapters located on campus.
The purpose of the executive leadership is to aid in communication between chapters, and to connect the chapters with needed resources.
Additionally, the executive leadership organizes advocacy efforts intended to help the common needs of veterans in school.
The purpose of the over 1,300 on-campus chapters is to be advocates for student veterans, and aid with transitioning from campus to a career.
Other ways in which they help veterans include coordinating campus and community outreach, setting up professional networking, and helping veterans succeeded in higher education.
History of the Student Veterans of America
The history of the SVA can be traced back to 1944 when President Franklin Roosevelt signed into the law the G.I. Bill of Rights.
Thanks in part to the bill, veterans returning from war flooded colleges and universities in pursuit of a higher education. Not only were the veterans facing the normal challenges associated with a return to civilian life, but they also had the challenge of dealing with schools unprepared for so many new students.
Due to these adversities, the student veterans banded together and created peer support networks in order to overcome all the challenges and earn their degrees.
After the American military became an all-volunteer force, a revised bill called the Montgomery G.I. Bill was introduced as a means of incentivizing service. Veterans returning from both Korea and Vietnam also formed student veteran groups to help deal with similar issues that were faced by World War II veterans.
So effective were these student groups that some still exist today at institutions like those at Northern Illinois University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The events that lead to the actual formation of the SVA were due to the wars started by the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
As vets returning from Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq attempted to use their G.I. benefits, the soldiers discovered that there was no adequate service to assist them in trying to achieve their educational goals.
Realizing student veterans in other cities and states were having similar issues, they attempted to organize across the country. Through social media, student veteran groups began to swap practice methods, share stories and find ways to support one another through the struggle to make the most of their educational experience as a community.
As this group grew online, eventually members from over twenty schools from around the country decided to meet in Chicago to formalize what they were doing.
From this humble grassroots effort, the Student Veterans of America was born.
There are ten main categories that the efforts of the SVA fall under:
1. Support and Organize Students
The first and most important part of the SVA is the supporting and organizing of students. At the heart of the SVA are the student-led chapters, which are a part of a network of over 1,300 schools and 500,000 student veterans.
The goal of the SVA is to empower veterans to be informed of their choices in school, and to help them make the most of their time during this transition period back to civilian life.
2. Fund and Award Scholarships
Another major effort of the SVA is to both help fund and award scholarships to returning veterans. To that effect, the SVA has awarded over one million dollars in scholarships since 2011.
By acquiring corporate sponsors, the SVA is seeking to make even more scholarships available.
3. Train Its Members
Additionally, the SVA provides leadership training to its members. The SVA offers annual leadership training in every region, and a colloquium featuring the best of the student leaders called the Leadership Institute.
4. Help Provide Vet Centers
Not only is the SVA interested in helping student veterans find the support they need, they are also helping provide a place for them to meet on campus.
This involves the building and establishing of campus vet centers. These are veteran-specific centers on campus for student veterans to be able to both study and socialize.
5. Tell of Their Success
The SVA is interested in helping its members tell their success stories. The SVA communication and PR team goes out of its way to share success stories of student veterans by using them in strategic media opportunities, and by sharing the successes of the chapters and members.
6. Safeguarding of the G.I. Bill
A large portion of the SVA’s advocating efforts is spent to ensure the safeguarding of the GI Bill. As the future of veterans receiving an education is tied to the G.I. Bill, it is imperative that it remains intact.
7. Groundbreaking Research
Another way that the SVA is serving veterans is by conducting groundbreaking research. To help secure the future of the SVA and its key practices, the SVA has created research incentives to help educate the public, policymakers, and schools on veterans and the scholastic challenges they face.
8. Develop Sustainable Support
To ensure that the SVA will exist to help the student veterans of the future, it has made a priority of developing sustainable support.
An active goal of the SVA is the development of a team of corporate partners to help fund their many projects.
9. Alumni Network
Another resource for SVA members is its extensive alumni network. The alumni network is created to help keep student veterans connected after graduation and create mentorship opportunities.
10. Annual Conventions
Lastly, the SVA hosts a national convention every year. The SVA annual national conference is the nation’s largest gathering of student veterans.
Tips for the Student Veteran
The change and adjustment to civilian life can be difficult. Throw in going from a highly disciplined environment to the disorganization of your typical college campus, and it can seem impossible. Here are a few tips to aid in adjusting:
- Take steps to prepare for your transition. Realize that you are going from an environment in which everything is pre-planned for you, to one in which you must make your own schedule. You are the one who will be in planning out your academic career and course selection. It pays to research and plan.
- Be willing and open to experiencing a new mindset, and be willing to hang out with civilians. Even though you may be dealing with student four or eight years younger than yourself, don’t just dismiss 18-year-olds as childish. It is important to be open to listen and be considerate of those you might not normally give the benefit of a doubt to. You might be surprised at what you learn.
- If possible, go to a traditionl college rather than just do online courses. While online courses may be tempting with their cheaper prices and the freedom to have class anywhere, there is so much you miss out on by not by going to school the old-fashioned way. One of the biggest things you lose out from remote classes is the opportunity to meet and interact with people you otherwise never would have spent time with before.
- Be prepared to practice patience with new environments and experiences. With any new experience there are growing pains, and you will come across people and experiences that are less than gracious. These are all growing experiences.
- Make sure to seek out other veterans at your school. See if your school has a local chapter of the Student Veterans of America and get involved. Sharing your education experience with those who have been there will help your adjustment to school so that you can make the most of the experience.
Why are Student Veterans of America So Important?
Veterans returning from war and attempting to readjust to civilian life and begin an academic career find themselves facing unique challenges. These veterans have endured hardships and trauma that the average person would not understand.
The average university or college is ill-equipped to help when you take into consideration that many veterans are dealing with physical, mental, and emotional injuries.
These unique challenges mean that without actions taken to address the issues, there is a likelihood that several veterans will fail to graduate.
To combat this threat, the SVA has made efforts to have chapters in major universities across the country. Instead of having to try and struggle alone, like-minded veterans can gather together for studying and mutual support. One of the greatest keys to success at school is working with like-minded people.