FRANKLIN COUNTY, Pa. - After receiving a $10,000 grant, the Penn State Mont Alto Student Veterans Association is gearing up to create an on-campus veterans center.
Chancellor of the university, Francis Achampong, says they want the school to be more veteran-friendly.
Currently, the school has 59 veterans enrolled, which is about five percent of their student population. Achampong says he wants to see that number increase, and creating the veterans center is just one step towards reaching that goal.
"We would like to see [the veteran population] get to at least 10 percent,” said Achampong. “My goal is to have about 100 veterans here in the fall of 2015."
The new student veterans center will be housed in a building constructed more than a century ago. It was previously used as the faculty mail room. The grant, awarded by Student Veterans of America and the Home Depot Foundation, will go toward renovating the building and buying furniture and electronics.
Anthony Dion, 28, is a student veteran at Penn State Mont Alto. He was in the army for 11 years, and he now suffers from PTSD and back and shoulder injuries. He says the new veterans center will help students like him heal.
"[I’m] suffering from PTSD, it was that transition, the fact that I had to learn to re-trust everybody,” said Dion. “Talking to other veterans is one of the best cures...It's always easier to deal with it with people who have done and dealt with the same thing as you"
For years, the veterans center has been nothing but a dream for student at Penn State Mont Alto.
"I really never thought it would happen and here we are. It's going to happen and it's going to happen very soon,” said Kathy Swope, veterans affairs coordinator at Penn State Mont Alto. “We are just thrilled about it."
For a university with a rich history of honoring veterans, the creation of a resource center is welcome news.
"They’ll be able to find one another, they'll be able to talk to one another, support one another,” said Achampong.
And while adjusting to civilian life isn't simple, veterans at the school say anything that brings them together makes the road to recovery much better.
"We need our brothers in arms and sisters in arms to stand beside us and get that support from each other,” said Dion.
The university says the renovation will start at the end of this month or early June, and they are hoping the center will be completed by the beginning of the fall semester.
To make a tax-deductible donation to the campus student veterans’ memorial, veterans center or activities, mail checks made payable to Penn State with “Student Veterans Association” in the memo line. The address is: Penn State Mont Alto, Development Office,