Central Louisiana universities making military students a priority

ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Louisiana will soon become the second state in the U.S. to have veteran centers on every college campus. Governor John Bel Edwards announced the initiative in February alongside the state department of veterans affairs and higher education leaders.

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Here in Central Louisiana there are a few colleges already making veterans and even active duty military feel right at home.

Over in Leesville, you can find an NSU satellite campus next to Fort Polk.

"It's ten minutes to get here," said Sgt. Timothy Grier. "But, most of it I just study at home and do it online."

The satellite location just outside Fort Polk's gate makes education convenient for active duty soldiers.

"NSU is great when it comes to making it easy for us active duty soldiers," said Sgt. Regina Williams. "They know how hard we work. I work through the weekend and all of that."

NSU has been recognized as a military friendly school for the last ten years. PFC Ana Gomez said she's getting the college experience.

"Being a young soldier, you are kind of missing your friends going to college," PFC Gomez said. " But, when you actually come and get to do those face to face classes, I feel very fortunate to be able to come and do that with my job."

NSU's VP of Technology, Innovation, and Economic Development Dr. Darlene Williams said they provide most of the main campus services at their satellites, including one outside Barksdale Air Force Base.

"We have dedicated staff who have been professionally prepared to work directly with the military, and a have a real understanding and appreciation for the types of services that our military need," Dr. Williams said.

Down in Alexandria, LSUA provides similar services on campus to 100 veterans. LSUA Vice Provost Eamon Halbin said they provide a liaison and counseling services.

"Not all of them, but some suffer from PTSD, they have those symptoms," Halbin said. "The counseling staff are able to put on accommodations for them to help them be successful on our campus."

They also have a veterans-only lounge.

"Socialize, get together with each other, some of them study in here," Halbin said. "Some of them come in and take a nap between classes."

Both schools said they are excited to work with the governor to create dedicated veterans centers on campus.

"It is a very small token of our appreciation for what they actually sacrifice every day for us and for our country," Dr. Williams said.

The support makes PFC Gomez proud to be a demon.

"Definitely makes you feel a part of campus even though we do have a 24-hour job," Gomez said.

The governor hopes to have all veterans centers in place by the fall.

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