Students who served given benefit center

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Campus resources for student veterans are getting a home today in a new student center dedicated to students who have served in the military.

Juan Gonzalez, vice president for Student Affairs, will host the dedication ceremony for the Student Veteran Center for Veterans Day at 11 a.m. today for Veterans Day, and speakers at the ceremony will include congressional members. A reception for student veterans and an open house for the student body will follow.

The center, which is located on the fourth floor of the Student Services Building, will help veterans transition from combat to the classroom, help establish a sense of community and educate student veterans on their resources, said Assistant Dean of Students Latoya Hill.

“This is a monumental event for the University,” Hill said. “They’ve put so much energy into making us a military-friendly school. This is another step in supporting those who have served.”

Margarita Jimenez founded the Student Veterans Association with two friends when she started attending UT seven years ago after the three discussed the lack of veteran resources on campus, she said.

“We were thinking about what was available to students and what we would like to see,” she said. “We wanted to have that same camaraderie and connection with other veterans who’ve had other similar experiences as non-traditional students.”

The Student Veterans Association provides student veterans with access to resources such as clearing houses, which help provide financial services, and related organizations, she said.

“When someone says the word ‘veteran,’ it’s not just one thing,” she said. “This organization was started by three women who served in three different branches. It’s so diverse; we come from many different backgrounds, political viewpoints, career paths and research interests, but somehow this experience of serving brings us together.”

Tania Nesser, an international relations and global studies sophomore, started off her first semester at UT this fall with UT’s first veterans’ banquet to welcome veterans to UT and educate them on resources that were available. The University also recently hired a veteran liaison for student veterans to go to for direction on issues such as mental health, finances and the GI bill, she said.

“I kind of had it easier than most veterans because I’ve been friends with [Margarita Jimenez] since we were in basic training,” she said. “It seems to me that the services being provided now have grown. The veteran center is going to make it grow even more.”

It can be hard for veterans to connect with one another, so one of the most exciting aspects of the center is a TV lounge for veterans to relax and bond, Nesser said.

“A lot of us are older so it’s a place where we can go to talk to other veterans,” she said. “It’s really important for the transition that someone makes from a military environment to an academic environment.”