Institute funds student veterans' organizations to continue work on Indiana campuses
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University recently awarded grants totaling $14,000 to nine student veterans' organizations, which are student-run service and extracurricular organizations, to help student service members and veterans on campuses throughout Indiana.
The grants of up to $2,000 were awarded through Operation Diploma, an MFRI initiative launched through a $5.8 million gift from Lilly Endowment Inc.
Operation Diploma empowers Indiana's higher education institutions and student veterans' organizations to better serve student service members, veterans entering college for the first time and those re-entering college after extended service or deployment.
Three student veteran organizations were awarded top honors for their proposals. First place went to Purdue University Calumet for the organization's commitment to student support and outreach. The proposal included plans to enhance the university's existing network of support among student service members and veterans while reaching out through youth mentoring, support for homeless veterans in Northwest Indiana and monthly support for troops serving abroad.
Ivy Tech Community College-Bloomington took second place with a proposal that included student support coupled with outreach activities, such as a Connect a Vet program that allows communication between deployed students and their families via on-campus teleconferencing technology.
Ivy Tech-North Central earned third place with a proposal that featured boosting support for student service members and veterans on campus through mentoring programs, faculty engagement and veteran-specific orientation activities.
"We know firsthand what kinds of needs our student service members and veterans have," said U.S. Navy veteran Amy Boake, who is a member of the Ivy Tech-North Central student veterans organization. "We want to combine all our benefits and services into that one-stop shop, and this grant will help us to do so."
Other schools that also received grants were:
* Ball State University
* Indiana University Kokomo
* Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
* Ivy Tech-Richmond
* Purdue University
* University of Evansville
A nationally recognized panel of judges evaluated the student veterans' organization proposals according to a strict set of criteria, including evidence of need, quality, creativity and sustainability.
This is the third round of grants that Operation Diploma has awarded since it was launched in December 2008. In June 2009, Operation Diploma conferred more than $270,000 to 21 higher education institutions across Indiana and is poised to award more than $1.1 million to higher education institutions later this year. Last September, Operation Diploma awarded $10,600 in grants to seven student veterans' organizations, which have used them to create, improve and sustain programs that directly benefit student service members and veterans.
"The level of commitment and sophistication expressed by the student veterans' organizations in this current grant cycle is truly impressive," said Stacie Hitt, director of Operation Diploma. "Students created a number of exciting plans, from raising campus awareness and increasing communication with administration to establish peer mentoring and statewide networking with other student veterans' organizations."
Operation Diploma is awarding these grants at a time when thousands of student service members and veterans are finding themselves eligible for increased education benefits through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which went into effect Aug. 1, 2009. It has attracted more veterans and student service members to campuses across the state and the nation, giving them access to benefits such as full tuition and fees for 36 months at a state university, monthly housing stipends and payments of up to $1,000 annually for books.
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