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July 30, 2015

Huddled together in crowded basements and spare spaces on college campuses across the country, a unique group of students is coming together to better one another. These students are veterans, and they’re working together to build a network of support as they transition from military to college life at nearly 1,300 Student Veterans of America (SVA) chapters throughout the U.S.

“The differences between military life and life on a college campus can be quite a shock for student veterans,” said Eric Gage, program manager for SVA. “Veteran centers on college campuses not only provide students with easy access to benefits and services, but it’s also a home for veterans on campus to come together and support each other, both academically and socially.”

The spaces available to veteran students vary vastly from college to college. On some campuses, no physical facility exists. Others with dedicated space may not be equipped well enough to meet the basic needs of their student population.

“If the space is a dark room in a basement that smells funny, not a whole lot of people are going to want to take advantage of the services and support they might find through SVA,” said Eric. “On the other hand, the facility and equipment might be great, but the space may not be large enough to fit the growing population and participation of an SVA chapter.”

To help create an environment where veterans in higher education can work together to succeed, the VetCenter Initiative awards facility improvement grants to 50 chapters a year. Sponsored by The Home Depot, the program goes beyond ensuring these facilities exist for students by making sure each space feels more like home.

“It’s amazing what happens when you get a group of motivated student veterans together in a space that they can feel comfortable,” said Eric. “Through this program, we’re giving veterans an environment where they can earn their degree, combine their education with the skills they’ve learned in the military and go on to lead as a civilian.”

Chapters are selected for the grant based on a creative application process during which they showcase the specific needs of their space. Learn more about the SVA and the VetCenter Initiative through this application video from D’Youville College, one of 50 schools awarded the grant in 2015.

To learn more about this year’s selected schools, visit