Langley Pembleton '21 October 16, 2020 11:49 AM updated: November 9, 2020 5:54 PM
Aggies are known for selfless service. At Texas A&M, a profound display of this service is to current and former student veterans. Col. Jerry Smith ’82, director of the Don and Ellie Knauss Veteran Resource and Support Center, part of the Division of Student Affairs, said it best: “As Aggies, we serve well those who have served."
One of the many ways that Texas A&M has continued the legacy of being a veteran-friendly campus is through the Warrior Scholar Project at the VRSC, which receives financial support from The Association of Former Students.
The Warrior Scholar Project is a non-profit organization that seeks to empower, encourage, and equip U.S. service members to pursue academia after their service; the VRSC brings this program to A&M’s campus.
“It’s a hands on, interactive, introduction to higher education,” said Ashley Drake, campus program coordinator at the VRSC. “The program typically leaves participants empowered that they can go through and earn a degree after being out of school anywhere from four to 15 years, depending on their service.”
Participants in the Warrior Scholar Project at Texas A&M have the opportunity to live on campus for two weeks in the summer, attend college-level lectures led by A&M faculty, put their skills to practice through rigorous assignments, and ultimately immerse themselves in the college experience.
In its four years at Texas A&M, the Warrior Scholar Project has hosted about 60 veterans, with the mission of bringing out the potential of each participant to earn a degree.
In 2015, Smith heard about the Warrior Scholar Project, and immediately recognized that the program belonged on the campus of Texas A&M. Soon after, he came in contact with Jarrod Romine ’19, who had previously participated in the Warrior Scholar Project at UNC Chapel Hill, and shared the same passion for bringing the program to Aggieland.
They spent the next year and a half developing the program to make it accessible to service members in Texas -- the state with the second largest population of veterans in the U.S. — as well as service members from across the country.
Because the Warrior Scholar Project at Texas A&M is available to veterans who may never end up attending A&M, the program displays the Aggie Spirit in profound ways.
“We are able to tell the participants, ‘You may never come here, but Aggies still care enough about veterans to take care of you,” said Jim Chirdo ’21, military admissions staff at Texas A&M and campus program coordinator for the Warrior Scholar Project.
The core values and Aggie Spirit are evident from start to finish to participants of the Warrior Scholar Project.
“These participants leave and they are able to tell people, ‘Going to Texas A&M for two weeks changed my life, imagine what it can do for you with four years,” said Drake.
Funding from The Association allows the VRSC to provide the participants with their basic needs, in order to set them up for success during the rest of the program.
“The Association allows us to provide the foundational things that the program needs to provide our participants — things like their food and housing,” said Romine. Apart from transportation to the campus, the program is completely free for all participants.
Thanks to the Aggie Network, veterans can come to Texas A&M, and have a safe place to explore the possibility of furthering their education.
“A lot of people get focused on the challenges that these student veterans will face, and we can’t ignore those challenges, but what we really need to do is help them identify and apply their strengths — strengths like leadership, teamwork, collaboration, core values, communication, and so many more,” said Smith. “I thank all of the Aggies who support The Association and the VRSC for helping us make Texas A&M the destination of choice for student veteran success and serving well those who have served.”
Donors to The Association make student support such as this possible.Thank you for your support. To give back to Texas A&M and help support Texas Aggies in Aggieland and around the world, visit tx.ag/Give.