College vet center grant program to expand

Marywood University's new veterans center opened last semester without any permanent student housing, but veterans moved in anyway.

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By Leo Shane III

Marywood University’s new veterans center opened last semester without any permanent student housing, but veterans moved in anyway.

“We always have between seven and 20 veterans in here,” said Lauren Williams, the school’s director of military and veteran services. “It’s a space on campus where they feel welcome. They meet with each other, they rely on each other. It’s like a family here.”

The Scranton, Pennsylvania, college built the new center thanks to funds from the Veterans Center Initiative Grant program, a partnership between Student Veterans of America and the Home Depot Foundation.

That program launched last year with the goal of helping a handful of colleges improve veteran-specific space on campus, to ease student veterans’ transition to university life.

This weekend, program officials announced an expansion of the grant program to 50 more campuses this spring, a $400,000 investment by the foundation. Officials began taking questions and proposals for the upcoming grants at this year’s annual SVA conference.

The foundation has backed more than $80 million in housing projects in the last four years to help national efforts to end veterans homelessness. Andy Benson, senior program manager at Home Depot, said the new student center projects are a dramatic departure from that work, “but another chance for us to give back to veterans.”

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