On a typical day, Saint Rose sophomore Jevon Schmitz wakes before dawn, runs for an hour or more, takes classes, and hits the library. Invariably, he finds time to talk with friends who have served in the Marines, Air Force or, like him, the Army.
“They’ll say the Army stands for ‘Ain’t Ready for the Marines Yet,’ and I’ll say Marines stands for ‘Men All Riding In Navy Equipment,’” said the 26-year-old Schmitz, seated in a plush couch in the Veteran Center, a cozy gathering place located in the center of campus for student veterans, service members, and students whose family members have served. “We’ll talk about finances and a lot of other things. It feels like home.”
In recent years, Saint Rose has seen its enrollment of veterans, veteran dependents, and service members rise. Enrollment of that group grew nearly 48 percent, from 143 students in 2014 to 211 students in 2018.
Much like 1946 when Saint Rose, then a women’s college, opened its doors to veterans returning from World War II for night classes, the College has devoted resources and energy to serving those who served. As men and women return from Afghanistan and Iraq in great numbers and began using their veteran benefits to fund their educations, Saint Rose has responded with facilities and supports.
An Office of Veteran Enrollment was established to work on outreach and help students access benefits, and the two people who staff it are combat veterans, too. A Student Veterans of America chapter was launched. The Veteran Center, unique among most college and universities, was dedicated in 2015. The College joined the Yellow Ribbon program, which picks up costs not covered by the G.I. Bill.
A $100,000 gift from the Massry Family with a matching challenge in 2017 funded scholarships that cover the gap between military benefits and tuition expenses. And in fall 2018, the College held a ribbon-cutting for its Veteran Residence, a year-round residence hall exclusively for students who are veterans or military service members. Schmitz spoke at the dedication event.
“The veteran house allows you to be on campus without rushing the transition to civilian life,” explained Schmitz, who occupies one of the six bedrooms in the residence. “My first semester it sometimes felt as if everything was going too fast. This gave me a place to relax.”
The College’s focus on student veterans, current service members, and military family members who use dependent education benefits has been widely recognized. This is the 10th consecutive year Saint Rose was named a Military Friendly School by Victory Media, publisher of periodicals geared for military personnel. And, for four years running, Victory Media has ranked the College No. 1 among “Gold Standard” private colleges with fewer than 10,000 students.
For Schmitz, the support means that he doesn’t have to choose between being a student in the mainstream of campus life and his history of eight years in the Army, including serving two tours in Afghanistan as an Airborne Paratrooper.
He is a marketing major who has declared a minor in Spanish, which he hasn’t taken since high school eight years ago, because he wants to learn another language. During Spring semester, he took religious studies.
“It’s a world religions class, and we are going through many religions,” he explained. “I learned that even though I’m Christian I share a lot of beliefs of Judaism and some of the Native American teachings. My mind is very open to learning.”
A Brooklyn native, he was weeks from enrolling in Saint Rose after high school, when he decided instead to follow a lifelong dream and enlisted in the Army.
What he expected to be a four-year detour from college turned into an eight-year commitment and a passion for military service. Schmitz trained throughout the United States. He left the service as a Staff Sergeant. After graduating from Saint Rose, he hopes to return to the service as a Military Intelligence Officer. Eventually, he would like to go into business for himself.
“There is no reason to fail here,” he said. “When I tell people ‘We have this, this, and that here at Saint Rose,’ they don’t believe it. They say, ‘We don’t have any of that.’”