Any change is easier with friends. In addition to being a pipeline for support and resources to Collin College’s veteran students, the college’s Student Veterans of America chapter offers a way for former and active military members to connect. The 100-plus member organization gives student veterans the opportunity to get involved in the college community while building new ties to other service members.
Cougar News spoke with Tyler Rawlinson, a Marine Corps veteran, former SVA vice president of communication and current SVA member, about the oranization and its impact on his time at Collin College.
What is Student Veterans of America?
It is a social group to welcome veterans to the school and we do things for veterans’ awareness in the community. We also participate as a group in Carry The Load, a nationwide effort to raise money for families who have lost family members in the line of duty. It brings military veterans and active duty personnel together to hike as many miles as they can to raise money and awareness. We raised over $1,400 for the fund last year. It’s a good cause to be a part of.
How were you introduced to the SVA?
I had (SVA advisor) Meredith Martin as a professor in one of my history classes two semesters ago. I noticed she was very veteran friendly. She told us about a lot of activities related to veteran causes. I found out she was one of the people who ran the SVA on the faculty side and I got to know her pretty well. She asked me to volunteer for a few of these things. I did a speech for Memorial Day and I have been involved ever since.
How has involvement in the SVA helped you?
Getting out of the military, you are on a kind of unknown foggy path. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. The fact is that you are so used to your military brothers, who are there with you. The SVA linked me up with other veterans around the campus, which was nice to have.
Do you feel like you made some friendships you wouldn’t have otherwise had?
Oh yeah. There is always a stronger connection to people who you relate to and who have been through stuff that you’ve been through. Most of the student body hasn’t been through those things. It’s different for us.
Did you learn about other things you wouldn’t know about otherwise?
I wish I had known about the SVA before I started with my college journey. It would have saved me a lot of time and hassle getting my (veterans) benefits approved.
I suffered with my benefits when I first started school because I wasn’t very knowledgeable about what the military offered veterans for school. It was a difficult transition to get them all approved. For others, the SVA is here to help them transition into college as smoothly as possible.
Is there anything about the SVA you would like for people to know that you think they don’t currently?
I think every veteran who is thinking about school should know about the SVA program. It’s basically an organization of like-minded people. The SVA points them in the right direction with whatever their needs are. If you are having trouble transitioning into the civilian life, SVA will have the answers you need. People should know that we are here to help if you are kind of lost.
Tyler Rawlinson is on track to graduate with an associate of science degree in December, at which point he will transfer to The University of Texas at Dallas to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology. He plans to attend medical school and then become a flight surgeon in the Navy.