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Veterans heading back to college drop out in staggering numbers. The new resource centers at Regis aim to change that.

“In the military, we are family, you know? It simply comes down to that. And like family we are always there to help you.”

For veterans returning from service and transitioning into college, diving back into the world of academia can be a challenge. Add to that navigating the complicated path to obtaining benefits, enrolling in classes and staying on track to earning a degree, and it’s no surprise nearly 90 percent of veterans enrolled in college will drop out within their first year.* At Regis, veterans and active service members have a new resource to show them the way and hopefully reverse that staggering statistic. With the opening of the military and veteran resource centers on Regis’ North Denver (Lowell) and Colorado Springs campuses in late 2013, Regis extended a hand to its student veteran population, as well as all veterans and their dependents considering a return to school.

The centers offer not just guidance in applying for benefits, but a source for veterans to access services ranging from mental health support to tutoring to financial aid assistance. They also provide something a bit less concrete, but just as valuable: camaraderie, comfort and community.

“Just being around military people, a place where you can feel comfortable – it’s a big help.”

Terry Blevins, a combat veteran of the first Gulf War, returned to school nearly 20 years after completing his service as a nuclear, biological and chemical warfare specialist. He is majoring in business administration and works at Regis’ North Denver (Lowell) Campus veterans center. For him, working at the center has allowed him to continue his service beyond the battlefield. “In the military, we are family, you know?” he said. “It simply comes down to that. And like family we are always there to help you.” Nate Pryor, a biology major who served as a U.S. Army team leader and infantryman in Kandahar, Afghanistan, agreed. Pryor has helped veterans interested in Regis access their benefits by directing them to the center and answering their questions. He’s also studying the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on the learning process. “I am doing well for myself and I want to give back to my brothers and sisters who served. I wish I had the center when I started here,” he said.

Oftentimes, it’s a lack of understanding that makes the lifestyle switch from service to the classroom difficult, and at times, almost unbearable, said Justin Owens, an Airborne Ranger deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Owens, who is majoring in health and exercise science, said the support the center offers makes handling the transition more manageable. “The networking – that’s what this center has provided,” he said. “Just being around military people, a place where you can feel comfortable – it’s a big help.”

“I didn’t know anything about Regis before I came here and I found out that Regis’ core values are what we live by as soldiers.”

Kirk Erickson, who works at the Colorado Springs center, is a staff sergeant who spent 23 years in the Army, traversing Germany, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and numerous domestic bases throughout his career. “It’s a good place to get answers. I’ve been through years of school, multiple financial aid systems, the VA and all kinds of stuff. I’ve got things I can offer someone if they get stuck because I’ve been through it all,” he said. Gathering at the centers has also illuminated the relationship between Jesuit values and those embraced by soldiers. St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, said “teach us to give and not to count the costs.” Pryor believes that sentiment ties directly to what he learned in the military.

“I didn’t know anything about Regis before I came here and I found out that Regis’ core values are what we live by as soldiers,” he said.

John Sweet, Military and Veterans Services Coordinator, pointed out that veterans have been attending school at Regis for years, and the new generation of servicemen and women has its own unique needs. “Best practices indicate that the top way to help today’s men and women transition from the military to higher ed, and then on to a new mission in the civilian world, is to provide them with space, fellowship, information and support,” he said. Blevins agreed.

“Vets with a support system have a much greater chance of graduating. That’s one of the things these centers provide,” he said. “Whether you have family or not, you know you can come here and we’ve got your back. Whether it’s a tutor or just someone to talk with, or someone says they want to go to sleep for a while – go ahead. We’ll turn the lights down for you, brother.”
* According to a 2012 report from the University of Colorado Denver

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