University creates haven for vets

School offers welcoming environment for those who have served

Amanda Herron, center, of Colorado Mesa University talks with Christopher Fick and Crystal Woolen, who work with military veterans, at an open house for the new Veterans Services Center in Lowell Heiny Hall on the campus Friday.

The two offices on the fourth floor of Lowell Heiny Hall at Colorado Mesa University still smell new. New carpet, new paint and all new furnishings make the rooms feel clean and welcoming, and for the 400 veterans who attend CMU, they are a little oasis from the bustle of campus.

The Veterans Services office was awarded a $10,000 grant this year from the Student Veterans Association and Home Depot to remodel the space.

Previously, coordinator Amanda Herron worked in a cubicle in the basement of Lowell Heiny. Now student veterans have a quiet place to talk to Herron, ask about services, get help or just get a cup of coffee.

SarahBeth Rivera, a fourth-year student and Air Force veteran, said the new offices felt like a safe zone for student veterans.

“We have issues that come up that not many people understand, so it’s nice to be able to have a place to talk about those and not have people around,” Rivera said. “It’s nice to have a place you know you can come and get help.”

Most student veterans are older than other students, Herron said, and the new offices provide a place for veterans to connect with each other.

“A lot of (veterans) coming into school now just got off of being deployed, so they’re not only coming back into the United States for the first time in a while, but they’re also starting school,” Herron said. “It can be really hard for them to go to school with 18-year-olds, and here they have people who are their same age, who know exactly what they’re going through.”

The space will also house the new peer mentor program, Peer Advisors for Veteran Education.

Rivera said she’s already noticed more connections in the veteran community this year.

“Already you can see there’s a stronger sense of community because (students) will come up here with a question and end up hanging out,” she said. “You lose your sense of community when you leave the military world. It was kind of a godsend for me to find other veterans on campus, because my entire adult life I was in the military, whether it be serving or as a dependent. And as soon as I found other veterans, it felt like, ‘Oh. I’m home.’ ”


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