Student Veterans Find Support in SVA
The Student Veterans Association (SVA) is an on-campus organization that is open to students who are either veterans or who are connected to veterans.
The organization’s co-presidents are Mitchel Pearson, who is a veteran himself, and Sheryl Climes, who is the wife of a veteran. The student adviser, Jason Poudrier, is an instructor in the Office of Teaching and Learning.
Sophomore engineering major Pearson, said the purpose of SVA is to unite students who have a background in the military.
“What it’s meant to do is bring them together to let them know that they’re not the only ones in the university using those kinds of benefits [from the government and] to give them other resources to help them along the way,” Pearson said.
“There’s actual other grants and scholarships that they can get being a part of the association as well.”
Pearson said this semester, he and the other members have coordinated events in order to raise awareness of the organization and to reach out to other veterans on campus.
“For Halloween, we actually did a hotdog cookout,” he said. “We’re also trying to build our funds up because we’re looking at making small care packages and stuff for Christmastime for the veterans at the Veterans Home and even looking into families in need.”
The organization, which began just over three years ago, now has 30 members. Pearson said he would like to increase SVA’s members.
“To be honest, that’s probably the hardest obstacle that we have,” Pearson said. “Veterans who are in school—they tend to want to stay away from certain things. … This is a way for them to have help, but it’s also not something that they know about.”
Climes, a junior psychology major, said she believes in family life and providing the spouses and children with resources when the veterans in their life retire.
She said during the 21 years that her husband was serving in the military and on frequent deployments, she and her daughters had to be strong.
“The military trained not only the soldiers but [also] the families to be resilient,” she said. “The girls and I thought we were okay, but once their daddy retired, they expressed to me the stress that they felt [and] the fear that they went through.”
Climes said her experience with her daughters is what is motivating her to pursue a career as a family and marriage therapist for veterans, and her participation in SVA has been preparing her for her career after graduation.
One way SVA has prepared her is by providing training in leadership. She said she recently traveled to Dallas, where she attended a session sponsored by Raytheon.
“What they’re [Raytheon] trying to do is [get] the veterans interested in working for their company, so there are a few companies out there that are sponsoring SVA training and conferences,” she said. “They’re having their top CEOs come in and give training.”
Climes said at the session, the CEOs specifically focus on finding ways veterans can use their military skills in the business world.
“They’re trying to find ways that help veterans transition back into civilian life,” she said, “yet have them in an environment where it will complement what they brought along with them from the military background.”
Climes said she has a passion for veterans and their families and has enjoyed being co-president of SVA.
“I love my soldiers, my husband and just seeing the soldiers here on campus,” she said. “I know in my heart-of-hearts that they’re protecting our country. They’re protecting me and my children, and they have sacrificed a lot for other people.”
To become a member of SVA, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/cameronsva/ or call student adviser Jason Poudrier at (580)-581-5903.