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October 1, 2016

PAVE mentor program connects student veterans

Johnson County Community College is a partner school with PAVE (Peer Advisers for Veteran Education), a nationally recognized peer mentor program for veterans.

According to its website, “PAVE connects incoming student veterans with student veterans already on campus in order to help them navigate college life, identify challenges they are facing, refer them to the appropriate resource on or off campus, and provide ongoing support to their academic and personal ventures.”

JCCC’s own PAVE team

The team’s goal is to open lines of communication and build rapport by addressing common problems, such as accessing Stumail, as a platform for discussing other issues and connecting to resources. 

The department holds a “Meet the Mentors” kickoff event each August to introduce the peer mentors and the Community Veterans Advisory Board community mentors. The community mentor piece is JCCC’s own customization to the PAVE program.

“We see this as a further extension of our Veteran Services model of veterans serving veterans,” said Kena Zumalt, Veteran Services coordinator. “We began the program by reaching out to current veteran students to find our peer mentors."

He knows whereof he speaks

“In the military you have a mission, a purpose and a sense of direction that you share with a feeling of camaraderie that is incomparable to any other life experience,” said Donny Whitton, a veteran and the 2016-17 Student Senate president.

“Upon exit, especially in college, we have a lot less structure and feel that we no longer matter. The mission is gone. We downgrade all our other accomplishments. You often hear, ‘I don’t miss the military, but I miss my people.’ PAVE is an opportunity to provide that camaraderie and mission. Veterans helping veterans provides a sense of purpose and accomplishment while building a network for success both now and in the future.”

A growth industry

“With a projected 2 million veteran students by 2020, providing a means by which veterans can network will enable their success for years to come,” Whitton said. “It gives a chance for a veteran to look back and pick his ‘battle buddy’ up one last time. Or, as you may often hear in the service, “Don’t worry, I got you ‘battle.’”

The PAVE program is a collaboration between the University of Michigan Depression Center & Department of Psychiatry and Student Veterans of America.