Easily camouflaged between Chick-fil-A and Great American Cookies in the Baker Pattillo Student Center, the SFA Veterans Resource Center exists for the sole purpose of supporting and helping student veterans, dependents of veterans and ROTC students.
For these groups, the center offers a lounge area with a television, study tables, charging station and a snack bar. Printing services are offered, along with free testing materials such as scantrons and blue books, a complimentary coffee bar and more. At the entrance, guests are greeted by student workers, who are also veterans.
Amy Brooks, a senior psychology major with a minor in addiction studies from Anchorage, Alaska, has worked at the center for two years. Her duties include answering phone calls, making sure students get their veteran paperwork completed and turned in and greeting students.
“In the military, you are always grouped with people because they are like-minded. Being here still gives me a sense of that. It’s the same. They [student workers] know where you’ve been; they understand,” Brooks said.
Brooks joined the Coast Guard when she was only 20 years old and served for 15 years. “I made lifelong friendships, I got to travel and see things, college is paid for, my kids were taken care of. I did search and rescue, drove boats, worked on aids and navigation ... and helped train the Dominican Republic navy,” she said.
Brooks expressed that when students walk into the doors of the VRC, having someone at the desk who they can relate to is important.
“It has helped me with my success in college. When I got out of the Coast Guard, we had to do a class that teaches you how to transfer into civilian life. The only thing I remembered is if you go to college, find the veterans resource center. That’s what I did. It helps veterans more than I could ever imagine. For dependents, it allows them to use the resources. Veterans talk to ROTC members because they’ve been active; we’ve lived it,” Brooks said.
John Fontenot, coordinator of the Veterans Resource Center since it opened in 2012, also serves as an adviser to these students. “We pay attention to mental health in here. We pay attention if one hasn’t washed their clothes in a while, or if they’re sleeping too much in here. We politely interview those folks and make sure they’re in a good place,” he said. “If not, we get them to one.”
Along with the lounge being open in the daytime, the center also offers programing, résumé workshops, suicide-prevention workshops, bowling nights and other community activities.
As a veteran who served in the U.S. Army in the Third Ranger Battalion, Fontenot emphasizes the need for a support mechanism for veterans who are making the transition from the military to college and civilian life.
“Just like there’s multicultural affairs or athletics, we’re a unique population. Dependents have been raised by veterans; they’ve moved with different duty assignments. It’s important for that kind of camaraderie and continued brotherhood and sisterhood,” Fontenot said.
“It’s almost haunting to lose that sense of brotherhood and team and what it brings—company and people who support each other. We have that here on a smaller scale,” he said.
The VRC offers a wealth of knowledge and an instant family to those who use the center, Fontenot said. “It won’t work if you don’t use it.”
This fall, the VRC will start the SFA Chapter of Student Veterans of America. Anyone who is a veteran or simply wants to support veterans is welcome to join. More information on the new student organization will be available this fall.
The VRC is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, visit sfasu.edu/vrc.