The transition from the military to a college campus can be a daunting experience for student veterans. In order to ease the transition and provide a welcoming environment, The Home Depot Foundation along with Student Veterans of America (SVA) awarded The University of Tulsa $8,948 this month to renovate the veterans’ lounge on campus as part of the Vet Center Initiative. TU is one of 50 colleges to receive this valuable grant.
At TU, the veteran program is home to many services that assist student veterans. They provide veterans community connections, benefits and operate a Veterans Center. In addition, TU participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, an extension to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Through this program, qualified student veterans have the opportunity to obtain 100 percent tuition and assistance for housing and school supplies.
The TU Student Veteran Association (TUSVA) will utilize the grant money to remodel the Albert E. Schwab Veteran Lounge on campus. Founded in 2009, the lounge hosts meetings and serves as a place for student veterans to relax amid their busy schedules. The renovation will include repairs to the wall and floor, new furniture and updates to the game room, computer lounge, dining area and lobby.
“The lounge is named after the only Medal of Honor recipient from the city of Tulsa. Unfortunately, the lounge did not reflect the honor of its original dedication. It was reminiscent of a dreary and bleak barracks room, often the last place a veteran wants to return to at their end of active service,” said TUSVA President Kate Tillotson. “Last year, 79 percent of student veterans self-identified as combat veterans. The lounge has often served as a safe place to meet and talk about the hardships and challenges they face as both veterans and nontraditional college students.”
“The Student Veteran Association’s goal is to help our members connect with one another on campus for camaraderie. We share information about local veteran resources and help create a culture on campus and within the community that supports veteran academic success and future employment,” said TUSVA Vice President Karl Watkins. “My transition has been incredibly easy, and my experience at TU has been vastly superior to the experiences of some of my peers who attended other schools.”
In 2014, The Home Depot Foundation and SVA established the Vet Center Initiative to provide veterans with assistance in college and beyond. SVA chapters are encouraged to apply for up to $10,000 in grants to build or remodel a space for veterans. More than 60 campuses across the country have received $500,000 to renovate centers for more than 30,000 student veterans.