Time and time again, people have said that St. Cloud State is a good school to attend if you are a veteran or are currently enlisted in the forces; and for another year, SCSU has the hardware to prove it.
For the sixth year in a row, SCSU has been awarded a Military Friendly honor, which is granted by Victory Media for the nation’s top schools that provide the best college experience for student veterans.
“We’re pretty proud of it, and so should the campus be,” said Zachary Mangas, interim director of the Veteran Resource Center. “The students have given a lot towards their service and to have this environment with such a good veteran’s resource center is really a benefit.”
The Military Friendly School designation is only awarded to the top 15 percent of colleges and universities throughout the nation. It goes to schools that dedicate resources and efforts to ensure military students have success both in and out of the classroom.
Nichelle Nagle is a student veteran who says that the Veterans Resource Center has provided nothing but help for her since she first walked in the door, assisting her financially by setting up her GI Bill and providing resources for her schoolwork.
“It has helped with my school, for one,” Nagle said. “After getting back from deployment, the resource center helped me set up my GI Bill and I got connected with another student from one of my classes and now we actually study together before exams, and that’s definitely improved grades.”
According to Nagle, the center goes beyond just helping her with finances.
“It’s definitely a great resource to use. The benefits that you get from it are definitely more than just them helping with tuition and setting up the GI Bill,” she said. “You can connect with people, make friends and the resource center does a lot outside what goes on in here.”
Mangas said, “We have meditation to help with stress, yoga is offered in Atwood, we have different outreach opportunities, the 911 flag ceremony… There are just a lot of different things that we do that bring out experiences. We also go into classrooms to talk about suicide prevention and awareness.”
In addition to that, SCSU offers in-state tuition and waives application fees for all veterans on top of participating in Beyond the Yellow Ribbon and Warrior to Citizen programs that provide additional help and services.
Jim Houston is yet another one of the many student veterans who frequent the Veterans Resource Center.
“It’s a great place to hangout, there’s always an interesting conversation going on. It’s nice to have other people around with a common bond and a common theme that we can all fall back on,” Houston said. “There’s a lot of story swapping and we like to laugh a lot, so there’s usually Comedy Central or something that we congregate around.”
But Houston made the point that the center is welcome to everyone, whether they are veterans or not. Last year the center had over 4500 visits for social interaction and discussion, and other than that over 600 stopped in for education benefit.
“It’s a great place; I’d like to see more interaction with non-veteran students. It’s not restricted for only veterans to come in here and chill out and hang out. Anyone who wants to stop in and say hi is welcome to do so and get to know some of your veterans.”
Beyond the Military Friendly honor St. Cloud State was awarded this month, Mangas said they also were awarded the Military Advanced Education and Transition for one of the top colleges and universities for 2016.
Most recently, SCSU was notified this Saturday that from the top 15 percent of top Military Friendly schools, they placed among the top 25 across the nation. Which Mangas said includes over 8,000 colleges and universities that were critiqued.
So what’s the hidden ingredient to all of their success?
“It’s all teamwork here,” Mangas said. “We have staff and faculty on campus that really go out of their way to make this a friendly environment for our student veterans.”