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CCRI's Student Veterans Organization
receives national recognition
Sept. 10, 2014
The 2014-15 academic year has gotten off to a good start for the CCRI Student Veterans Organization. In August, the national Student Veterans Association named it Chapter of the Month, chosen for recognition out of 1,074 chapters nationwide.
"It's great to be recognized out of all of those chapters," said SVO President Hollie Nye, who found out about the award when she opened the national SVA's monthly newsletter and saw pictures of the CCRI SVO front and center. "It shows that we're a chapter to look up to. We've shown other chapters across the United States that you can make a difference. If you have a passion to make a change or help others, then people will recognize it."
Nye is serving in the Army National Guard as a medic, and is exploring the idea of possibly entering the college's Nursing program in the future. She is one of two new leaders at the helm of the organization after its previous leadership, President Chad McFarlane and Vice President Michael Steiner, graduated last spring.
She is joined by Vice President Scott Bjurman, an Army veteran who came to the college to study computer science after he was injured during his time as a mountain infantryman. "I had served in the Army for 10 years. Coming to CCRI was a good steppingstone to further my education," he said.
Bjurman and Nye became involved in the SVO at roughly the same time after they had started classes in 2013, and quickly hit the ground running. Nye took up a post as the vice president of administration, while Bjurman volunteered as a student veterans advocate, helping veterans enrolled at the college understand their entitlements and benefits. "Sure, you could have a hands-off approach and go off on your own way," he said of veterans who enroll at CCRI. "But it's been my experience that I've had better results when I've reached out to others. It takes a lot of stress and the edge off of being a student veteran. Having the camaraderie and ability to work with other veterans to help them out has definitely been a blessing."
The work Bjurman spoke of – specifically helping veterans and their families gain access to educational and disability benefits available to them under the GI and Post-9/11 bills – was largely responsible for their recent national recognition. Steiner and McFarlane along with Nye, Bjurman and the other SVO members recently led a successful lobby at the state level in Rhode Island to change registration to help disabled veterans who were 10 percent and above disabled to return to school.
Bjurman and Nye explained that the group also was able to change legislation so that returning vets didn't have to wait until the end of add/drop period to enroll for classes, as well as enabling them to use their GI benefits to pay for tuition in competitive programs.
"Someone has to take care of vets," said Nye. "If something has to change, we want to step up and do it. We just feel like it's our mission, even if we need to advocate on a larger scale."
CCRI has been designated a Military Friendly School® by Victory Media, a veteran-owned business, since 2011. The list honors the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools in the U.S. that are doing the most to welcome America's veterans as students.
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