Student veterans benefit at Sac State

Marissa Montoya

Many people might not realize Sacramento State is ranked No. 2 in the CSU system for student veteran enrollment.

Sac State is home to 2,730 enrolled veterans and their dependents. San Diego State is No. 1 in veteran enrollment.

Sac State is appealing because of organizations and resources such as the Veterans Success Center, Student Veterans Organization, and the Veterans Career Pathways Program that are available for student veterans and their dependents. Sac State is also located within driving distance of McClellan Air Force Base and Mather Air Force Base.

“We try to tailor our services to offer things for veterans while they are here to keep them engaged in campus life and enjoy their college experience a little bit more,” said Dr. Jeff Weston, director of the Veterans Success Center and a Sac State doctoral student with a degree in educational management and leadership.

The Student Veterans Organization is an association that brings student veterans together and creates a community that supports them academically, collectively and professionally.

The goal of the Student Veterans Organization is “to assist in any way to help their former brothers and sisters in arms realize their full potential,” according to its webpage. The organization hosts events such as the upcoming crab and pasta feed, co-hosted by the Sacramento Veterans Resource Center, to raise funds to help veterans get off the street.

Sac State also offers veteran students and their dependents a program called the Veterans Career Pathways Program, which was started by a student veteran named Monica Daniel in order to help student veterans with employment education resources and skills.

The three-step program starts with the student being matched with a mentor and attending educational workshops concentrating on topics such as resume building and interview skills. Level two of the program allows the student veteran the opportunity to contact and shadow professionals from their field of study or interest.

Starting in spring 2015, a select few will be able to participate in a third level, which the student veteran would participate in a professional placement program for one month.

“The Veterans Career Pathways brought in a whole new wave of veterans coming to the center who wouldn’t normally, because Monica helps with resume building,” said Camille Paulos, a dependant of a Navy veteran, receptionist at the Veterans Success Center and a graduating senior majoring in psychology.

In 2003, programs and organizations such as the SVO did not exist at Sac State. Without these programs for student veterans it can be quite difficult to navigate the unique challenges they face.

“There is nobody really there to tell you about the benefits you have,” said Andrew Martinez, receptionist for the Veterans Success Center. “You have to go out and find out about it yourself. You have to want to do it too. When I first came back, I didn’t want to do anything.”

Martinez, a junior at Sac State, said the university has been helpful with resolving those issues. Beginning about three semesters ago, Sac State began offering a veteran-specific orientation for incoming student veterans. The orientation focuses on unique veteran issues such as paperwork for financial benefits and priority registration.

Even with all the resources available to student veterans at Sac State, they still face unique problems the average civilian student might not understand.

“Coming to a place with a lot of people can be hard because a lot of people have PTSD,” said Martinez.

Weston said most of the student veterans at Sac State are transfer students from a community college and many of their traumatic issues have been worked through.

Weston has been out of the Air Force since 2003 and Martinez has been out of the Army since 2010.

There are many ways to help support the veteran community at Sac State from reaching out to the SVO for possible volunteer opportunities or joining the new non-exclusive student veteran fraternity called Sigma Omega Delta.