Student group helps military veterans with education

5/28/2010

Before a spring basketball game, members of the OCU Military Affinity Group salute during a ceremony honoring military veterans. The event was in OCU’s Freede Center.

Before a spring basketball game, members of the OCU Military Affinity Group salute during a ceremony honoring military veterans. The event was in OCU’s Freede Center.

G.I. Jobs magazine named Oklahoma City University a "Military Friendly School for 2010," thanks to collaboration between a new student group and school administrators.

The Military Affinity Group was established in Spring 2009. It is open to active-duty military personnel, Reservists, National Guard members, and veterans. OCU student Derek Gordon is the founder of the group.

With an estimated 400,000 U.S. military personnel preparing to rejoin civilian life, Gordon said, it’s a good time for universities to start preparing for many of them to become students.

The group’s focus is on finding donors for an endowment fund to help students get an education at OCU after serving their country. "It’s more than just a social group where military students can share ideas about their college experience. The main component is the financial aspect," Gordon said.

He pointed out that the federal GI Bill does not cover all costs of attending most private universities.

Gordon, who has a four-hour commute to school from his home state of Arkansas, already has had success creating such organizations. He began one at the University of Arkansas, and it grew from 10 members to more than 100.

He said a Military Affinity Group on campus goes a long way in recruiting military students. "We look at things like that when we’re determining where to go to school," he said. "OCU took steps to get a ‘Veteran Friendly Campus’ rating."

Other activities by the group include visiting veterans in residential care facilities. "(Those) veterans don’t get many visitors for about 10 months out of the year. They tend to be remembered from Veterans Day through Christmas, then it’s a lonely wait for the holidays to circle back around," Gordon said.

The Military Affinity Group commemorated Veterans Day last November by passing out yellow ribbons and MREs (meals ready to eat) during lunchtime in OCU’s Tom and Brenda McDaniel University Center.

"We want to give students a taste of what the food is like in war zones," Gordon said. "Some people may have seen movies and read about great food served to military personnel. That’s a rarity during combat operations. This is one small way to show what it’s like in order to raise appreciation for what our brave colleagues overseas are going through."

The group also encouraged members of the campus community to wear yellow ribbons as a show of support.

OCU has been approved to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, a tuition-assistance agreement with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

In August, that department deployed the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which covers tuition and fees at the highest public university rate in a state, and includes a housing allowance and stipend for books and supplies. OCU agrees to help cover tuition exceeding the amount granted under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

The veteran-friendly designation from G.I. Jobs ranks OCU in the top 15 percent of all colleges, universities, and trade schools nationwide, based on the magazine’s research and survey results.

"On behalf of the eight-million military members and veterans seeking a school, I thank you for your commitment to educating our nation’s most deserving heroes," stated the letter to OCU from publisher Rich McCormack.

OCU Admissions Director Michelle Lockhart said the designation is evidence of the university’s goal to help students obtain first-class education.

"Those who serve our country with honor deserve the best education they can find," Lockhart said. "We’re happy to help them with their educational needs, and proud that a media voice of these students has recognized our commitment." For more information about the OCU Military Affinity Group, visit http://www.okcu.edu/military .


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