Sam Dunaway | News Editor
Nine Western student veterans had the opportunity to attend the Student Veterans of America National Conference from Jan. 4-6, the largest annual gathering of student veterans in the nation. The students came back from the conference with knowledge, motivation and a 2018 Chapter of the Year title.
“We knew going into the conference that we were one of the top five finalists for Chapter of the Year,” remarked Shane Follett, chapter President. The national organization represents over 1500 chapters around the United States. “We were up against schools like Syracuse, UNLV, LSU. We were the only Division II school in the top five.”
The annual National Conference is both a personal and professional development experience that many of the organization’s members benefited from.
“The networking opportunities for me especially are huge,” Follett commented. “I know student veterans from literally all over the country, but then on top of that, there’s opportunities to network with people from D.C. in the national organization.”
Laura Pettyjohn, the club’s Communication Officer, explained the ways in which the conference is beneficial to all student veterans. “You have the seniors who look at it as a huge outreach opportunity. Who are getting ready to graduate and are looking at the next steps in their life and looking for those connections. And you also have the freshman and sophomores who are coming in and getting extremely motivated from it while they’re also making those connections.”
Cole Hendren, a first-year and new member of the organization, expressed his enjoyment of the experience and motivation to move the club forward. “I want to do so many things now just from the three days that I was there… For any student veteran who is needing some motivation or some eye-opening to the opportunities that are laid out before them, this is the place to go. If you want to know who’s out there working for you and wanting you to succeed, this is where you should be at. Because they’re all there.”
The Western SVA chapter has been an official club since the 2014-2015 school year, but Follett has seen the improvements and growth that the club has undergone in the past two years. The organization was awarded Club of the Year at the 2017 Leadership Recognition Night. Notable accomplishments by the organization include the campus-wide Food Drive, community Easter Egg Hunt, and the annual Memorial Day Banquet.
When asked why Western’s chapter stands out from the rest, Follett replied, “Our chapter is a little bit different from other chapters because our chapter is focused on service. We’re a service-based chapter… I think it was a combination of the community service that we’ve done, the outreach that we’ve done, and recognition of how quickly we’ve gotten to where we are.”
“It’s making an impact directly to your community and making it better than you found it, that’s the biggest point,” Vice President Jeremy Bulluss emphasized. “We want to make any type of impact we can on our community.”
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Photo by: WOU.edu