Senior Project Spreads Awareness of Student Veterans

The hosts of three events on campus this week, seniors Ariana Garbaccio and Kylan O'Shea, have spent their semester developing a senior capstone project, “The Next Step: Creating Community for our Vets.” This campaign, aimed at raising awareness of veterans on campus and the services they need, was created in partnership with the Heroes to Heroes Foundation.

“Ramapo has been awarded with several titles for being a veteran-friendly school. Yet, we felt there was very little to show for it. The Veteran Student Organization had one veteran when we joined. It seemed that veterans had no idea how to meet other veterans or get the services they needed. Students were completely unaware of the amount of student vets we have at Ramapo, and there wasn't a veteran community on campus like many other groups have,” Garbaccio said, explaining the inspiration behind the project.

According to the College’s website, Ramapo was named  GI Jobs Military Friendly School list earlier this year.

“We wanted to create an environment and space where veterans felt at home while at school … We thought having a space on campus would be a great way for veterans to meet one another, relax in between classes, do homework and have the services they need right at their fingertips. We wanted to create a veteran lounge on campus and after working with the Veteran Student Organization and Joe Connell, director of student success: we see that becoming a reality,” Garbaccio said.

According to Garbaccio, a veteran and transfer student lounge has been in discussion for a long time. With the project’s help, a lounge is expected to open in the fall of 2016. 

“We were extremely nervous when first starting this campaign. We didn't know if the student vets would respond, want to be involved, or even participate. Once they learned about the VSO and spoke about their willingness to be involved our minds were put at ease. They have been so open and willing to be involved in everything and anything we've been doing. It's safe to say our campaign could not have gone forward or have been a success without them. We're so grateful,” Garbaccio said.

This collaboration brought several events into fruition. On Monday, veteran Stephan Wolfert performed in “Cry Havoc.” The one-man show, also written by Wolfert, combined his personal experience in the military with the words of William Shakespeare. A photo event was also held at the Arch that Monday, encouraging students to “take your photo to show your support.”

“We had a great turnout at all three events and we feel like we really accomplished our goal, or at least we’ve started to,” Garbaccio said.

Their goal, however, does not end with this semester.

“We hope that after we graduate, the involvement and conversation between vets and non vets will continue. We are confident that the student vets who have just created an e-board in the Veteran Student Organization will host more events to include faculty and students in veteran affairs and we hope other organizations will do the same,” Garbaccio said.

After working on the project for the whole semester, Garbaccio and O'Shea have become more personally involved as well.

 “For us, this has become more than a project. This has been an extremely rewarding journey and we are so happy to have gotten to know these veterans and Heroes to Heroes members,” Garbaccio said.