Student Veterans Association provides community to nontraditional students

The K-State Veterans Center is located in the on the third floor of the K-State Student Union. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

The Student Veterans Association at Kansas State is a place for veteran students to come together and find normalcy after a nontraditional start to adulthood.

The transition from the military to the university can cause difficulties, Ismael Rodriguez, Veteran Center coordinator, said.

“For the student veteran population, many times it can be a transition from three years, 12 years or, in my case, 22 years in the military and something you are very familiar with into a college setting,” Rodriquez said.

There are often stereotypes that accompany the word “veteran,” but the SVA is trying to redefine who veterans are.

“The Student Veterans Association does a good job of saying, ‘Hey, we are millennials or the current generation that is in college or even sometimes the parent’s generation of those in college — but still a different group than most people would think of when they think of a veteran,’” Rodriquez said.

SVA is a place for veterans to come together and find their community, said Rodriguez.

“It is meant to be something for veterans in particular that allows them to be around folks that have shared similar experiences,” Rodriguez said.

While finding a community is important for these veterans, so is working with the local community. The K-State SVA is involved with the Flint Hills Veterans Coalition, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion.

“The SVA participated in the Veteran’s Day Parade to give back and say ‘Hey veterans support the community,’” Justin Colby, senior in social sciences and former member of SVA, said.

SVA provides opportunities to connect with students from other colleges through Student Veterans of America.

Last spring, the K-State SVA held a statewide event for different SVA’s around the state called the Kansas Student Veterans Consortium. Veterans from Wichita State, University of Kansas, Emporia State and other Kansas colleges came together. The highlight of the event was speaker Kirstie Ennis, a former Marine amputee.

“This gives us more of an avenue to connect with people in the state of Kansas, not just K-State,” Fatima Jaghoori, junior in nutrition and health and president of the SVA, said.

Another benefit students in SVA have is scholarship opportunities, Jaghoori said.

Jaghoori said there has been some resistance and that the SVA has worked through some things. Attendance has been their biggest struggle, but she has ideas to get more veterans involved.

“I would like to start having monthly meetings again,” she said. “I think we are going to do something along the lines of at our meeting, bring food to make sandwiches or something and drop it off at the shelter.”