TWU Makes Space Just for the Veterans

Texas Woman's University unveiled their new Veteran Students' Center on the first floor of Jones Hall Wednesday.

Two rooms of space were converted to make study and gathering space just for folks on campus who have served in the military.

5W Collision in Denton donated about $7,000 to make the project possible and supply the rooms.

Since May the auto-repair shop has donated more than $20,000 to veterans causes and other charities after a spring hail storm gave them a big boost in business. Owner Jason Weir says as a former serviceman himself he wanted to share the business' success with his fellow vets.

The donation couldn't have come at a better time for students planning the center at TWU.

Graduate student Jasmine Wiley says her team had applied for a grant to create the space but was ultimately turned down, so the 5W donation gave the project life again.

Wiley herself has never served but says she was inspired to do something for the veteran community coming from a heavily military family and seeing their struggles.

"My dad served in the Navy, my grandfather also served in the Air Force, and my brother served 4 years in the Army," said Wiley. "There was just a lot of anxiety."

Campus Director of Commuter Services Amy O'Keefe said they transition back to civilian life and into college can often be difficult for service members; coping with different schedules and coming onto a campus where they're often older than the majority of students.

"Issues of isolation and issues of transition," she said. "And having space where they're safe, where they can be with other people who have served and other people who want to support them is just really critical to their success."

Student veterans who were on hand Wednesday said they look forward most to that camaraderie and having a place where they can meet with others who "get” what they have seen and been through.

"Different things kind of keep you distant from the campus, so to have an area to come will really help veterans out not just immerse back into college life, but also get that connection," said former Army soldier Juan Rodriguez who is studying for his doctorate in Psychology.

"Relating to a lot of other individuals, I mean it's challenging," said Marine Reservist Hallie Crawford. "Just the chance to interact and meet other people that are from similar backgrounds; similar stories."

For the first year the center will have operation hours during the week but campus leaders say they hope to expand that as the program grows and continue to offer more services for veterans using the space.

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