The Home Depot awarded Webster University’s Student Veterans Organization (SVO) with a $9,000 grant for a Veterans Center on campus. SVO President Tom Palozola secured the grant by writing a business plan detailing the grants uses and how Webster planned to sustain veteran success.
The Veterans Center opened Oct. 19 to a crowd of 50 people as Palozola, Webster President Elizabeth Stroble, Provost Julian Schuster and Office of Military Affairs (OMA) Brig. Gen. Mike Callan, USAF, cut the ceremonial ribbon.
“It’s one thing to welcome a vet, it’s another to ensure their success,” Stroble said.
Webster provided the space for Palozola and the SVO to remodel and make their own. The new Veterans Center is located at 200 Hazel Ave. next to the bookstore and parking garage.
Palozola was able to replace the flooring, paint the walls and fill the space with furniture and electronics as part of the remodel. He hopes the space will allow veterans to have a place where they can feel comfortable in their transition to student life.
“The transition can be hard, especially the first year,” Palozola said. “That’s why I’m really glad this Veterans Center is opening up now because we can help each other.”
The ceremony doubled as a U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) open house. VA officials were at the ceremony to discuss their Vet Success on Campus (VSOC) program.
According to the Veterans Benefits Administration, the VSOC is designed to provide access to resources and counselors for veterans and their dependents.
Webster hosts the only VSOC program in Missouri. Jason Blakemore, Webster’s VSOC counselor, hopes the Veterans Center will be a way for veterans to reconnect outside of a classroom setting.
“A lot of veterans don’t connect well with students that weren’t in the military,” Blakemore said. “There’s so much different, life experience wise, that they don’t open up much.”
Blakemore said having a place to go and talk to other veterans will help make student life easier. In the future, Blakemore and Palozola hope veterans can connect with other campuses and raise support.
For now, Palozola said he hopes the Veterans Center will encourage more veterans to be a part of the SVO and build Webster’s Veteran Foundation.
“We need more veterans in our club,” Palozola said. “We need to spread the word about this Veterans Center. It’s doing no good if nobody uses it.”
Palozola graduates this semester and in doing so vacates the presidency of the SVO. He hopes the Veterans Center will spur some interest into SVO and its leadership roles.
In the coming weeks the new center will receive a 72 inch TV along with a couch and entertainment center. Palozola encourages veterans to use the center and seek out public safety for swipe access. Veterans need to bring a student ID and proof of service to gain access.
Blakemore said he believes Webster is one of the best schools in Missouri for veterans.
“Webster has a very diverse campus, and I think that’s allowed the veterans to have inclusion in on that,” Blakemore said.