On my way back home…

By: Eva Buchman, Brooke Cassidy and Matt Krauza

Marine veteran Bobby Davis is a junior at West Virginia University and working hard toward his degree in International Studies. For Davis, achieving a college degree is the culmination of years of hard work and service, both in and out of the classroom.

Before Davis even arrived on campus, he took part in a new program, Adventure Veterans, to help make his transition to college easier. The Adventure Veterans program was started in summer 2009, as a branch of WVU’s Adventure West Virginia program.

The Adventure Veterans program incorporates different team-bonding and character building activities. On this trip, participants paddle through white water rapids.

WVU psychologist Dr. Ian Kellems said the Adventure Veterans program is geared specifically toward student veterans and aims to give them a sense of belonging when they return to school.

“They go through serious adjustments coming to campus,” Kellems explains. “But it’s very different from an 18 year old who was in high school three months ago as opposed to a 24 year old or 30 year old who was in Afghanistan three months ago.”

Veterans have a unique set of challenges that they must work through. Veterans can struggle with problems like test anxiety, math and reading difficulties, attention and concentration problems, and substance dependence.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs offers a variety of services for veterans, including physical rehabilitation and psychological services.

Although Davis is thriving now in college, the transition wasn’t as easy as he expected. He thanks the Adventure Veterans program for helping him realize he wasn’t alone, even on a campus of nearly 30,000 people. Davis wishes all of the 4,500 veterans in West Virginia collecting Veterans Affairs benefits had the same opportunity.

Adventure West Virginia takes students to new heights. During a rafting trip, students stop to enjoy the natural beauty.

“Everywhere I went there was somebody- a familiar face, instead of just kind of being thrown in with a bunch of 18-year-old kids,” Davis said.

Student veterans can face physical and emotional challenges when coming back to school. During their time of service, the military takes care of housing and food needs, but when veterans return to school, everything is up to them.

“The University system, it’s up to you if you’re going to fill out your FAFSA form or make sure you get your G.I. Bill forms in and stuff like that,” said Greg Corio, Director of Adventure West Virginia. “[We] just really help with them, with the transition into taking accountability for everything that’s going on.”

The Adventure program also offers Spring Break trips free of charge to student veterans through grants from the Boeing Company and Outward Bound. In the future, Kellems said they hope to involve even more veterans in the program so that their college careers progress as smoothly as possible.

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