Students returned to campus this week at the University of South Florida in Tampa and among them are an estimated 1,700 veterans transitioning from active duty military to college student.
At a welcome back barbecue on campus Thursday, student veteran Victor Benoit collected a free shirt from the USF Student Veterans Association (SVA). He is a former Army military police soldier and a USF criminology major.
“It’s a totally different lifestyle between military and being back in school. Some people say it’s hard,” Benoit said. “It’s a case by case basis and whether you’re an adaptive person.”
Benoit said he had a fairly easy transition partially because he joined the U.S. Army ROTC where he now serves as battalion commander. So, Benoit will return to active duty when he graduates this winter instead of joining the SVA.
The organization is reaching out to student veterans by adding services like a tutoring program and partnerships with local businesses that may offer internships.
“Community outreach with getting vets jobs is another big push,” said SVA leader Patrick Schweikart.
The USF chapter leadership spent their summer doing outreach. Schweikart and SVA president Ray Mollison taught about 200 USF faculty and staff how to help student vets transition into college with their “Got Your 6” workshops. And former SVA president Kiersten Downs biked across America helping to raise money and visibility for the USF chapter.
“Our chapter here is really like a spearhead for the national chapter because so much of what we have done and are doing and continue to do,” Scheikart said.
Those activities include community service like a tree planting event that the city of Temple Terrace invited USF student veterans to attend and the 2013 Run for the Wounded.
And there are career focused events like the internship fair, Tampa Bay Tech forum, scheduled September 10, 2013 for USF student veterans studying engineering and technology.
But Schweikart said they’re big, renewed goal this year is getting in-state tuition for Florida’s student veterans. For a second year in a row, the Florida legislature failed to pass a bill that would have given student veterans in-state tuition.
You can hear the radio version of this story on the WUSF website.