Kyle James spent eight years as an army combat medic and deployed to Iraq in 2009. In 2010, James returned to Yuma, where he attended community college before transferring to the UA.
“I had a really interesting time transferring to the UA,” James said. “I had a hard time getting the GI Bill set up and credits transferred, and that’s a lot of what the program is about.”
Now James helps other veterans make the transition as a Peer Advocacy Liason through the PALS program at the Veterans Education and Transition Services.
VETS partnered up with their faculty fellows to create the PALS program and help military-connected students with their transition to college and their path to graduation and a career.
“When I started at community college, I didn’t have anything like this,” James said.
There is a big difference for military members who are transitioning to the student lifestyle, James explained.
“All of a sudden, they need to make more decisions for themselves, and that’s where we come in to help,” he said. “We keep them accountable for what they want to do while they’re here.”
There are many factors in the transition process for student veterans, such as navigating the GI Bill, being misunderstood by peers and professors, starting college older than most students, obstacles from military service and adapting to a new lifestyle.
The new PALS program was modeled after the Victim Advocacy Services Program, a military program which deals with similar issues. The program is also part of the UA’s 100% Engagement Initiative.
PALS initially began because a student veteran came to VETS to discuss high rates of female veterans suicide, which are higher than the national average, and how veterans typically talk with other veterans first.
“It started off personal, but then it went on to include other challenges that all veterans face that they can help each other with,” said Faten Ghosn, an associate professor in the School of Government and Public Policy.
PALS has since evolved to cover the professional and academic aspects of student life in addition to personal challenges.
The liaisons use their expertise and experience making the transition themselves to personally help other student veterans and connect them with resources to help with issues they are facing. The liaisons complete a specific training to help them find the best way to engage with other student veterans and guide them to graduation.
PALS is still refining its process to make sure they address the main issues that military-connected students face every day.
Ghosn and Prather led a VETS town hall meeting earlier this month to hear directly from student veterans about the issues they find important as UA students.
Students provided feedback to the VETS program about the major issues they face coming from the military.
VETS encourages all student veterans to come to the VETS Center on the fourth floor of the Student Union Memorial Center to discuss issues they are facing and to learn more about how PALS can help.
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