UTPA Report: Veterans Service Award

UTPA Report: Veterans Service Award

POSTED: Thursday, September 19, 2013 - 4:02pm

UPDATED: Thursday, September 19, 2013 - 4:02pm

Leaving the military and adjusting to a civilian life can be difficult for members of the armed forces. Going back to school, can make the move even more complicated, but as Roxanne Lerma tells us, UTPA picked up top honors for making the transition—a lot easier for our military heroes.

After four years in the Air Force, David Elizondo decided it was time to take advantage of his G.I. bill and pursue his dream of going to college.

David Elizondo, “It was an opportunity that’s just sitting there so therefore I wanted to better myself and become a federal employee in the long run with my bachelor’s degree.”

The shift to civilian life wasn’t an easy one for the University of Texas Pan American senior, but the Veterans Service Center on campus made the transition much easier for him and hundreds of other veterans.

Elda, “We’re here to advocate for them and to help them as a support system to show them that there is a way to succeed and to complete their education.”

Elda Arriaga, the manager of the Veterans Center, says the place has become somewhat of a one-stop shop, “We assist students with the veterans’ application process, benefits and admissions, financial aid and utilizing their educational benefits and helping them with testing materials to succeed in higher education.”

The center which opened in 2009 is a pivotal reason why UT Pan American was named a “military-friendly” school by Victory Media for the third year in a row. The recognition is given to colleges who provide flexibility and support for military students. Juan Garcia, a former marine, says without the center he would have been lost, “When I first came here I had no idea how to do anything around here because transitioning from a military life to a civilian life is very difficult.”

While handling educational paperwork is the cornerstone of their services, the veteran’s center has also evolved into a place for the former armed forces members to kick back, relax and catch up with their studies.

David Elizondo, “We have all four branches that come here frequently just to socialize here and hang out and it’s more of a quiet environment for the veterans who need to take care of schoolwork.”

Juan Garcia Jr., “When I have homework or stuff that I have to take care of they let me come here and take care of business. So here it’s very military friendly because they don’t hesitate to help a military person.”

Or their families, dependents like spouses and children are welcomed with open arms. The center has even begun offering special stoles for graduates to wear at their commencement ceremonies.

David, “I honestly could not tell you where I would be. It would be more of running into veterans in passing as opposed to you knowing where to come to if you want to talk to other veterans, if you want to socialize.”

It’s a home away from home. Reporting for UTPA and Newscenter 23, I’m Roxanne Lerma.

In the past four years, the veteran’s center expanded from a small office with just one computer to a much larger space on the UTPA campus.
It includes a counseling center, an advising office and a lounge for veteran students and their loved ones to spend time and study.

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