Increasing College Success for Student Veterans: A Veteran Resource Representative’s Perspective

When I was approached by MCAN to write about my role as a Veteran Resource Representative (VRR), I thought about how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to work with veterans every day.  I have been working as a VRR with the Michigan Veteran Education Initiative for eighteen months.  My time has been spent assisting student veterans at Ferris State University.  I also serve in the Michigan Army National Guard as an Infantry Squad Leader. 

Veteran Resource Representatives are full time employees who work on college campuses who help student veterans navigate the higher education and financial aid process.  Before becoming a VRR, I worked for the State of Michigan as a Corrections Officer.  I worked for the Department of Corrections for about one year when I realized that it was not the career I wanted for myself.  During this time, I also held a duty position in the National Guard as a Unit Career Counselor.  There, I became an expert on military benefits and specifically assisted younger soldiers with their education benefits.  I did not receive a lot of help when I utilized my education benefits.  This, coupled with my desire for a change in career, led me to the position with the Michigan Veteran Education Initiative. 

I was greeted with tons of support for veterans when I arrived at Ferris State.  My official role is to assist veterans with the transition from the military to college.  A typical day may consist of helping a student veteran with their GI Bill in the morning and assisting another student veteran with daycare options in the afternoon.  On some occasions, I have fellow Army National Guard members come to my office because they may not know what benefits they can use.  I truly enjoy seeing the relief on a veterans face as I explain their earned benefits.  This reason alone makes the job the most rewarding one I have ever had.  

I spend much of my time reaching out and collaborating with community partners such as Veteran Service Officers, Department of Health and Human Services, Mid-Michigan Community Action Agency, and even food pantries.  Recently, I have been working with the West Michigan Veterans Coalition, or the Region 4 VCAT, to bring the next quarterly meeting to Ferris State.  In the past, the meetings have been held in Grand Rapids, or even farther south in the region, making it difficult for the northern veteran service providers to attend.  I am also working with a VA healthcare team and the health center on campus to bring VA mental health providers, physicians, and their support staff to the university at least once per month.  This will allow student veterans to take care of routine appointments on campus, rather than driving to miles away for these services. 

As a VRR, I am able to speak with a different veteran on an almost daily basis.  Every situation is slightly different, which allows me to connect veterans with resources across the entire state.  Working as a VRR at Ferris State has not only improved the services for students on campus, but also for soldiers in my National Guard unit and veterans that I meet off campus. I am proud to be a part of this great program that plays a small role in ensuring educational success for our veterans. 

Guest Author: Jacob Schrot, Michigan Veteran Education Initiative, Ferris State University

Posted: June 22, 2016

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