ESU Announces Grand Opening Of Student Veterans Center
East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania (ESU) has opened a new Student Veterans Center to act as a one-stop shop for student-veterans who need help with GI benefits, transcripts and other issues as they transition into college life. Currently 102 students on campus receive veterans educational benefits, and the center is designed to help them cut through red tape and be a place to meet others who served and share their experiences.
Run by June Pepe, ESU’s Veteran Services counselor and a VA Certifying official, the center in Room 118 of Zimbar-Liljenstein Hall opened in January but will have its official grand opening 2-4 p.m. April 9. The event is open to the general public at no cost.
“These men and women have served our country and continue to contribute by bringing to campus a special perspective borne of their experiences in the military,” said university President Marcia G. Welsh, Ph.D. “The Veterans Center is one way we can thank them for their service and make them feel valued at ESU.”
“We wanted to have a one-stop shop for veterans where they can get all the services ESU has for them,” said Pepe. “We want them to have a place on campus to call their own.”
Air Force veteran Nick Hunt said June Pepe’s ability to navigate the bureaucracy of government veterans’ benefits has been invaluable since he arrived at ESU in 2011.
“She’s one of those behind-the-scenes, know-how-to-get-things-done people,” Hunt said. A sophomore, Hunt is using his GI Bill benefits to study recreation and leisure services management, with the intent of becoming a park ranger.
Pennsylvania National Guard reservist Joshua McKenna ’11, who graduated from ESU with a degree in political science and is working in Washington, D.C., as a military instructor, said he still contacts Pepe for advice when friends of his are having trouble with their veterans’ benefits.
The center, which will feature computer stations, a TV, coffee and snacks, gives the Student Veterans Association a home base and Pepe plans to start a subgroup for women veterans on campus. A counselor comes from the Veterans Administration Center in Scranton twice a month to aid veterans with readjustment counseling.
Hunt says it’s good just to have a place on campus where veterans can talk to others with similar backgrounds.
“Coming from the military, we’re used to a much more rigid style of doing things, we have our own vernacular and needs,” Hunt said. “The military mindset is, ‘I’m here to do a job, I’ve got my priorities, the task is the thing.’ It’s good talking to somebody on the same wave length.”
Pepe also helps student soldiers, such as National Guard members, who are taking classes but can be deployed with little notice.
“They might get a call and have to leave the next day so I will contact all the professors,” Pepe said. “We’ve had people calling us from Afghanistan and they didn’t know what to do about their classes. We will make sure they get the help they need, even if it’s long distance.”
ESU’s Student Veterans Center will be open 8 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and Tuesdays from 8 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. Pepe may be reached at: 570-422-2812 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.