Video: Rutgers-Camden Offering Veterans Tools To SucceedPosted:
CAMDEN, N.J. – Seven years ago, Rutgers University-Camden started a student veteran support services program, and now the school has earned national honors for helping veteran students on their path to a degree.
With multiple scholarship opportunities, the Veteran's Lounge, separate orientation, and a list of other services specifically designed for veterans were what helped Rutgers-Camden become a "Purple Heart University" and recently named one of the top universities in the country for veterans.
“I honestly felt like I had a home here," said Mary Ann Rocks, a student veteran at Rutgers-Camden.
This is the sentiment echoed by many of the Rutgers-Camden student veterans.
“The campus and Fred and the Office of Student Veterans makes sure you’re going to succeed. They set you up for success. And since day one, it’s apparent," said John Rapacz, another student veteran at Rutgers-Camden.
Fred Davis, director of Veteran Affairs at Rutgers-Camden, is the person attributed for much of the success the program has had in transitioning veterans from military duty to obtaining a degree, but he gives credit to a group effort.
“Everybody says, ‘oh it’s Fred.’ No. It’s not about me. I may drive the car, but all of the components are coming from elsewhere," said Davis.
Davis handpicks veterans to work for him in the Office of Veteran Affairs at the Camden Campus. These student veterans and workers helped shape the seven-year-old program into what it is today.
“One of the biggest things is it helps to prepare veterans to return back to normal civilian society. I can tell you from my perspective, because I spent so long in the Marine Corps, it really does take some transitioning and you need help with those kinds of things," said Evin Robinson, a student veteran at Rutgers-Camden.
“I think it definitely provides a clear path for them to be successful at this university, definitely, and across the country, the growing trend is that more and more schools are picking up and doing more things to provide services for veterans," said Davis.
Davis also credits a student and former marine who was by his side for six years, Josh Piccoli with helping him form the program into what it is today. Piccoli, who passed away in March from an asthma attack, didn't live to see the recent honors the program received.
“I’m just happy with the vets, the way they support what I ask them to support to help other vets," said Davis.