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NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock Illinois Valley Community College students Yvette Lucas (right) and Pete Thomas (left) laugh during a recent Student Veterans Association meeting on campus. The group was created several years ago as a way for veterans to meet other veterans who are attending college.
NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock Illinois Valley Community College’s Student Veterans Association holds regular meetings to discuss matters pertaining to students who have also served in the military.
Illinois Valley Community College counselor Missy Killian removed the crockpot cover and the smell of sloppy Joes filled the tiny conference room. Add the bags of potato chips, Tupperware containers full of cookies and another pot full of simmering soup, and one might think she was about to celebrate. Instead, Killian thought it best to have a “food day” for the college’s Student Veterans Association meeting. Food and treats are always a nice way to stimulate conversation and good feelings, even if this particular meeting had a difficult topic on the agenda. A student-veteran not affiliated with the SVA committed suicide weeks earlier. His girlfriend, obviously distraught, was seeking counseling. Consequently, the SVA wanted to talk about plans to raise awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other potential psychological problems veterans face when transitioning to civilian life. “We started this group about five years ago,” Killian said. “I felt like anything we can do to help veterans reintegrate back into society would be a great thing. And I left it open because I wasn’t exactly sure what our vets would want.” The average age of an IVCC student is 27 years old. However, the statistic doesn’t necessarily manifest itself into the perceived reality on campus. Most students are what are sometimes classified as “traditional”: 18-20 years old, maybe a part-time job, and planning to transfer to a four-year university. Next are the “non-traditional” students: older, with full-time jobs and kids, or perhaps displaced and retraining.” Somewhere in between are the vets. Some served during wartime; some served during peace time. But all of them have lived through the unique experience of military life. “We’re like a little family,” SVA president Michelle Harnell. “I joined because I wanted to get to know people that have my background.” The IVCC SVA is a small bunch. There are three advisers, and five students. Most meetings have a short list of agenda items to discuss various topics that uniquely affect student-veterans such as financial aid, brainstorming ideas for Veterans Day campus activities and talking about new ways to let other student-veterans on campus know they exist. But once the business is over the conversation turns to their everyday lives: school, home life, and their playful annoyance with one particular history professor who still requires his students cite their sources using what they consider the “antiquated” Chicago Manual of Style. “It’s nice to have people to talk to who can relate with you,” SVA member Yvette Lucas said.
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