EKU veterans office receives donation

Special to the Register

Bechtel National Project Manager Ron Hink presents a check for $1,000 to the Eastern Kentucky University Office of Military and Veterans Affairs on Wednesday on campus. From left to right: Debra Bush, OMVA School Certifying Official; Jaime Roberts, OMVA Veterans Academic Advisor; Taylor Hoffman, Marine Corps veteran and EKU student; Ron Hink, Project Manager, Bechtel National; Aric Young, Navy Veteran and EKU student; Barbara Kent, OMVA Director and Army veteran and Elizabeth Ballou, Executive Director, EKU Enrollment Management.

Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass (BPBG) donated $1,000 to the Eastern Kentucky University Office of Military and Veteran Affairs (OMVA) on Wednesday to support the mission of the office of assisting student veterans.

Director of the OMVA Barbara Kent said Bechtel has been a consistent and long-standing supporter of the program and were major donors for the purchase of new furniture and technology for our VETS (Veterans Education and Transition Support) Center.

The funding from Bechtel Parsons comes through an ongoing partnership between them and the EKU Office of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Kent said donations, like the one from Bechtel Parsons on Wednesday, are vital to the program and help support the initiatives and services the office provides to help veteran students transition to college, stay enrolled, graduate and continue that success into stable careers.

"We are funded externally from the university and we take great pride that we have so many supporters of our program that we can do this," Kent said.

For EKU students like Marine Corps veteran, Taylor Hoffman, the OMVA is a vital component to her education.

"I am so grateful for donations like today… the center wouldn't even be possible if we hadn't got the donations from Bechtel. The Office of Military and Veteran Affairs has been my biggest supporter -- no matter what I'm going through -- they have my back always," Hoffman, who is majoring in Homeland Security said Wednesday.

The veteran said the resources of the OMVA were key to helping her transition from military service to life as a college student on campus.

"It's a struggle honestly," Hoffman, who is also a mother of two, explained. "We are considered non-traditional students and it can be difficult to try and find our place on campus. All we want is to feel included."

Hoffman said the new VETS Center at the Powell Building provides a safe place for veterans to receive help and resources while also keeping them tied to other veterans who might understand what they are going through.

"In the past the center was on Lancaster Avenue and it felt very apart and separated from the rest of campus. Now we are more central to campus and it is much easier to stop by and use the facility. It also helps us feel more a part of campus," Hoffman explained.

Kent said the new space and continued donations is key as the VETS Center is one of the few areas of campus that is open and need for its services are growing.

"Our veteran and military enrollment has actually increased," Kent explained. "Our veteran students represent nearly 11 percent of our entire EKU student population."

The director said the office is hoping to use the donation to extend and expand scholarship opportunities for veteran and military students, while also hopefully partnering with Bechtel Parsons on career opportunities for EKU students after they graduate.

"We are having a lot of success and that is thanks to the wonderful support we receive from our donors and the administration. They recognize the value that these students bring to our campus and the university. The recurring theme I've found is that they want to give back to those that have given so much," Kent said.

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