Student veterans strive to find voice
Until December, the UH veteran community voiced complaints that they had no real group or organization representing them. Political science major Robert Martinez, a U.S. Army veteran, worked with a small group of student veterans to change that by implementing the Student Veteran Association.
Martinez has taken the SVA under his wing and, as vice president, has big goals for the organization.
“There are over 2,000 veterans here, and there is almost no voice for us,” Martinez said. “My and the SVA’s mission is to get more student veterans involved in the community and also to be aware of their benefits.”
Martinez and the SVA hope to implement a scholarship program specific to the veteran community with its own set of criteria. They hope that this will prove to be a stepping stone in the nationwide improvement of how universities identify and reach out to the veterans that attend their campuses.
“An overall goal of the SVA is to have an actual scholarship program for the SVA. The advisory team will develop the criteria, and we hope that this will offer some assistance to veterans who need it,” Martinez said.
The advisory team is led by Lauren Bradberry, also an Army veteran and a former behavioral health specialist, who has the task of keeping the SVA within the mandates that student organizations must follow.
“One of my jobs is to make sure the SVA stays within the guidelines of student organizations as well as with the national guidelines of the SVA,” Bradberry said. “I give guidance for the veteran student body as a whole and connect the SVA with resources within the community and nationwide.”
Also part of the SVA is a Veterans Affairs representative, Ralph Harrison. A newly adopted member to the staff of UH’s Veterans Services office, he will help SVA connect with the VA.
Harrison is an Air Force veteran who has an extensive background in helping veterans transition into civilian life and the pursuit of higher education.
“My former title is veterans’ success on campus counselor,” Harrison said. “I, along with three other counselors in the region, have been adopted to add further help (to) educate the veteran community of the variety of benefits sets that the VA offers. I hope to eventually institute a pre-enrollment query of all student veterans on campus to be able to reach out to them as they come to UH.”
The SVA is still in its early stages, and there is much to do in structuring and making the organization legitimate with the help of Bradberry and Harrison.
“We are in the structural phase,” Martinez said. “We need to plan, and currently we are writing our constitution and bylaws, trying to get those correct and in line.”
The SVA holds meetings at 6:30 p.m. Mondays in the Veterans Services office.