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Student Veterans Represent SUNY JCC at National Convention

Pictured from left are Matthew Adams, Jarod Lyon, president of SVA, and Yeidy Bishop.

Two students from SUNY Jamestown Community College and their advisor attended the Student Veterans of America National Convention this month in Nashville, Tennessee. Yeidy Bishop and Matthew Adams, along with Don Pool, coordinator of Accessibility Services and Military and Veterans Club United advisor, were able to share ideas and best practices with student veterans, military-connected students, and other supporters, as well as corporate, government and nonprofit partners.

The annual convention took place Jan. 4-6 and offered facilitated sessions on topics ranging from running a successful student veterans’ chapter to effective strategies for recruiting and engaging fellow veterans. Participants explored topics related to transitioning into the workforce and emphasizing the holistic development of student veterans.

A veteran of the Air Force contemplating a career in homeland security, Bishop was excited that the conference was “less like death by PowerPoint” and more about making meaningful connections. She learned the power of LinkedIn and networked with professionals who are quickly becoming mentors.

“LinkedIn did an entire breakdown of all of their features and how to optimize your resume, how to apply to jobs and how to look for different jobs,” Bishop said. “Veterans get a year of premium for free and they walked you through everything you need to know. I didn’t even have a LinkedIn before the conference. So the first day I went back to my room and made an account.”

Bishop aspires to become a pilot or infantry officer in the Army National Guard. Should she reach her goal, she could become the first female infantry officer in New York State. One of the panels she attended brought her a bit closer to her goal.

“I spoke to a man who is in the 75th Ranger Regiment, and he connected me to one of the first females who ever made it through any of these male-dominated combat programs,” Bishop shared. “She emailed me and gave me her personal phone number and said, ‘If this is the career path you’re interested in, I will help you in any way possible.'”

The SVA Convention included veterans services such as the American Legion, Veterans Administration, Wounded Warrior Project, along with national employers like The Walt Disney Co., Boeing, Raytheon, and Johnson & Johnson. Adams, who served six years in the Marines and is now studying Computer Science, found sessions about legislation interesting and was able to listen to staffers from Capitol Hill talk about their goals and priorities to ensure veterans can access the benefits they have earned.

“It helped me realize that I am one of the extremely lucky few that haven’t run into a lot of roadblocks,” Adams said. “Because we’re a small community, resources here aren’t stretched as thin as they are at larger campuses in other states.”

Adams was motivated by sessions that discussed ways for veterans to get more involved in their local communities. He hopes to use the information he gained to strengthen the SVA chapter at JCC. Adams shared that it can be difficult for a veteran to connect with other students on a college campus after spending years in the military. JCC’s SVA chapter is there for them, and many others who might not realize they qualify for assistance.

“We’re open to anybody military-aligned — dependants, survivors, even anybody considering joining the military after going through college. We’re geared to be a resource for them,” Adams explained. “There are a lot of resources out there that we don’t know about here, just because they’re not geared toward our community just yet. A few of us are talking about getting on the schedule for some of our local representatives to see where their heads are at and to try to push toward expanding what’s available here to give the community something we can strive for after graduation.”

The SVA NatCon is the largest gathering of student veterans anywhere in the world, and the SVA has chapters at nearly 1,600 campuses across the U.S., including at JCC, and in several countries abroad. NatCon creates a moment in the academic year for the military population to share ideas and best practices.

“This was our first time attending this conference, and it helped us gain knowledge about engaging student veterans here at JCC, build community partnerships, and support their fellow veterans,” said Pool. “It also gave these students opportunities to network and build relationships with national corporations and other resources to help foster their success upon graduation.”

Anyone interested can explore military and veteran support at JCC at sunyjcc.edu/military.

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