Veterans lounges offer space for community building

September 14, 2021 (Volume 45, Number 2)

Student veterans now have two designated spaces to come together to study, share stories and create friendships.

The Laker Military Resource Center is located in the Kirkhof Center on the Allendale Campus and a second veterans lounge is located in the Daniel and Pamella DeVos Center for Interprofessional Health on the Health Campus in Grand Rapids.

Jill Hinton Wolfe, military and veterans resource manager, said the spaces allow for an important tradition to continue.

“Community is built into the student military population,” said Hinton Wolfe. “Having spaces in Allendale and Grand Rapids provides a way for student veterans and the greater Grand Valley community to continue to establish relationships and support one another.”

Mathias Mapes-Pearson, a senior majoring in management information systems and president of Laker Vets, said the designated spaces are open to all students and are another example of the university’s commitment to student veterans.

“Grand Valley is a big proponent for student veterans,” said Mapes-Pearson, who served as a Marine sergeant from 2013-2018. “The many resources and programs offered help student veterans make that crucial transition from military life to civilian life. And, it’s pretty unique to have a leader like President Philomena V. Mantella consistently take the time to meet with us to find out what resources we need.”

About 400 student veterans attend Grand Valley. Kirk Lamaire, a senior majoring in computer science, built and maintained bombs in the Air Force from 2000-2016 and served three tours in Afghanistan. He said the lounges are a great place to study and form friendships.

“It’s a nice place to study and do homework, but also a great place to get advice from other veterans on classes and life,” said Lamaire. “It’s good because it helps us realize we are not alone in some of the struggles students veterans may have that are unique to us.”

Ben Allen is a junior studying cyber security who served in the Marines from 2015-2019. A native of Norwood, Massachusetts, he moved to Grand Rapids after his service and enrolled at Grand Valley in 2019.

“I chose to attend Grand Valley because of its reputation and resources,” said Allen. “I’ve received help navigating the G.I. Bill and scholarships that are available. The veterans lounge is a nice place to relax, think, vent and connect with other veterans.”

Grand Valley recently earned Gold Status, the highest ranking from the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency in its annual ranking of veteran-friendly schools. Gold Status is awarded to higher education institutions that provide an inclusive and supportive environment for military-connected students. GVSU has earned Gold Status each year since 2015.

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This article was last edited on September 14, 2021 at 9:5 a.m.

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