Community Blueprint Summit for Change: Gerald Kapinos

Community Blueprint Summit for Change: Gerald Kapinos


>>Good afternoon. My name is Gerald Kapinos and
I’m the Director of Operations for Student Veterans of America. First, I’d like to thank the
fine folks at Points of Life for letting me speak
here today and also I’d like to thank Trisha Thompson
for putting this together. I’d also like to extend
some recognition to some of the other folks who’ve
helped our organization to grow and thrive through
the past few years; there’s Lieutenant
Colonel Henderson and the entire JCS staff, Mr.
Todd Bowers from JPMorgan Chase, representatives from the
U.S. Chamber of Congress, Colonel David Southerland, Mr.
Rodrigo Garcia, representatives from Give An Hour,
The Mission Continues, Pat Tillman Foundation,
Bank of America, and most importantly the
foundation of our organization and some of who are here
today are the chapter leaders and members of each
one of our groups. As an introduction to
Student Veterans of America, we are the first coalition
of student veteran groups on college campuses
around the country. Our vision is for all veterans
to succeed in higher education, achieve their academic goals,
and gain meaningful employment. Our mission is to
provide military veterans with resources, support and
advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and
following graduation. There are a few key
issues many veterans face when matriculating
on the campus. Some of these already
have solutions in place to help veterans transition
back into civilian society such as a GI Bill or on-campus
resources such as career and disability centers. However, we found one critical
ingredient did not exist on many campuses;
that was the presence of a peer support network. In the military, no matter
how difficult the situation, most of us usually had our
brothers and sisters in arms to rely on for that emotional
and psychological support. However, when we arrive on
campus, we do so as individuals. Now this problem is not
exclusive to veterans, but a veteran often has
a significant age gap, different maturity levels,
different language and customs, and vastly different
life experiences from the traditional
college student right out of high school
preventing those relationships from forming. The SVA model is to develop and sustain those local
peer-to-peer support networks on college campuses which
hopefully fill that void. These networks are a specific
type of student origination and when affiliated with us, they are officially
recognized as chapters. This network can aid the
veteran with their integration with members often acting like
an older brother or sister. These groups can often share with the recently separated
veteran some of the tips and tricks to be
successful in school as well as form a buddy system. This system support can also
be beneficial as a check on their mental state. A student veteran who is
sinking into depression or having issues may be
noticeable to a group of peers who can then recognize that
person’s change over time. Likewise, they can be a conduit for information not only
recognizing the symptoms, but also connecting
their buddies with the appropriate
help when necessary. Our model started with only
a handful of chapters in 2008 and has grown to a network of over 500 chapters
across the nation. In support, a 2010 Rand
Corporation Study titled “Service Members in School”
found that 61 percent of survey participants describe
the support they receive from fellow veterans as quite
or extremely helpful in pursuit of their education goals. So we are trying to promote
an innovative local solution to help veterans succeed. Another problem we have found
is connected with employment or post-graduation success. Many studies have already shown that a person’s education
level increases; there is a proportional decrease
in their unemployment rate. Thus a person with a bachelor’s
degree…thus person’s with a bachelor degree have an
unemployment rate approximately half that of persons with
only a high school education. But in this economy,
jobs are becoming increasingly competitive. One thing we’ve heard over
and over is the importance of an internship for
companies when looking to hire recent college
graduates. Many veterans though, do
not or cannot participate in summer internship programs which could potentially
improve their chances for post-graduation success. One of the reasons is first
the question an individual may as is; it’s there really
a need for an individual to demonstrate their
work ethic and abilities after they’ve already
been in the military? Also many veterans have families
and paid internships are few and far between so they
cannot afford to participate in unpaid internships despite
how beneficial it may be. The GI Bill often does not
cover any unpaid internships and that’s usually the
veteran’s sole source of income. So we at SVA have created
an innovative approach to this issue. One of our programs we
launched last year is called the Internship Support Program. Our approach offers
a monthly stipend for student veterans
during the summer months who are participating
in an unpaid internship. The monthly stipend is
not a lot, but our hope is to defray some of the participation’s living
costs while they improve their employment prospects. This allows them to not only
get an inside look at a company, organization, or industry,
but also gives an opportunity to start building that
professional network and hopefully give
them a job tryout. Once more or in addition, there
are many efforts out there to help veterans to either tweak
or translate their resumes, but I feel this is
only half the battle and does not go far enough. In my personal opinion,
I don’t think any amount of wordsmithing can effectively
communicate on paper many of the intangibles that
veterans can bring to a company such as dedication,
problem solving, or proven leadership
to name a few. So an additional benefit
to this program is to hopefully provide a
first-hand experience for employers to see that
higher quality of employee that a college educated
veteran can bring to their team. I realize that these solutions
we’ve developed do not solve every problem that is out there, particularly ones considering
veterans; they only address two. But the larger point is that
we all bear a responsibility to help our service men
and women transition back into the civilian society and in many cases this
cannot be done expect through innovative approaches. I thank you and thank
you for your time and I hope you enjoy the rest…

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