UTC restructures student veterans mentoring program

Program to assist student veterans, dependents, military spouses in school needs, transitions

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) — UTC welcomed its students back earlier this week.

But for one branch of its student body, the school is really stepping up to help them feel at home.

UTC recently introduced its new Veteran and Military Affairs Student Ambassador Program, which is meant to serve as a “bridge” for veterans beginning life anew on campus.

The program provides peer-to-peer support, transition support services, and more.

“It’s a struggle going to transition from the military sector to the civilian sector,” said Student Veteran Ambassador Felipe Holden. “You find yourself dealing with issues or struggling with certain things and [then] you have somebody that you’ve never met before — it’s like, ‘Wow, I’ve dealt with that before. So let me walk you through this, how I’ve dealt with it and how I got past it and things like that.'”

UTC Director of Veteran and Military Affairs Sylvana Matthews believes each veteran has a “different story” and that, to a degree, they all “want to be heard.”

She says the school’s new program is more than ready to listen.

“They want somebody to acknowledge that they have their own struggles — they might have academic barriers,” Matthews said. “The services that we provide get them over to the correct entities, whether in-house within UTC or externally through the VA.”

Holden says some student veterans may shy away from reflecting on their service out of fear they may be looked down upon by some in the community.

He says the program has already reached out to veterans both on and off campus, and hopes it feels like a new home for those who served our country.

“I know from my own experience, but from experience I’ve heard from others, they look for that community, look for other people,” Holden said. “I feel like what we’re doing right here, right now is identifying ourselves, putting ourselves out there so other veterans can identify us.”

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