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SVA Voices • David Keener:
Student Veterans of America prides itself on celebrating the diversity of the many student veterans that make up our chapters across the country. This June, in celebration of LGBT Pride, we not only celebrate the culture and history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, we also recognize their countless contributions as student veterans and highlight their stories of success.
David Keener is a 10-year veteran of the Coast Guard, President of his SVA Chapter, and passionate about his career in computer technology. 10 years ago, David was released from the Coast Guard under Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), for being gay. As we celebrate National LGBT Pride and inclusivity 365 days a year, we highlight the success David has experienced post-service and how he continues to give back to his community and serve his country. David will be graduating this month from Southern Crescent Technical College in Griffin, Georgia, with an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Computer Programming.
Even before he joined the Coast Guard, David was working as a computer technician. In fact, David showed an aptitude for computers in elementary school which included being able to build a computer from the ground-up by the time he was in third grade. His family fostered that aptitude, as did his ten years in the military, during which his aptitude for technology was applied to Avionics. This led to David receiving his wings as a search and rescue flight mechanic, quality assurance inspector, computerized field service technician, and many other roles and qualifications often reserved for higher ranking technicians.
David Keener with fellow student veteran, Mark Footerman, introduces featured speakers at NatCon 2017.
David says that SVA has been one of the most important elements in his life following his discharge almost ten years ago. "The overwhelming acceptance I've received from local SVA chapters, as well as SVA national, has allowed me to reclaim that pride in myself, not simply as a veteran, but an LGBT veteran. The 'family' element that is so important in the military is just as prevalent amongst its chapter members and leaders and serves to create a diverse and inclusive environment. Reclaiming that pride has allowed me to become more active in my own [LGBT] community by representing a group that I feel is so often overlooked."
David Keener speaks on the 'Do Ask, Do Tell" panel at NatCon 2017 in Anaheim, California.
David cites the SVA Leadership Series (now SVA Chapter Leadership Academy) as some of the most important programs SVA offers. "It was absolutely the best introduction I could ever hope for in a student or veteran organization. The workshops opened my eyes to a world of possibilities for my chapter. Meeting with other leaders from around the country helped us to grow our chapter into one of the strongest student organizations on our campus. Our next stop is doing the same in our community!"
David also mentioned how he and his chapter have been able to utilize the vast number of SVA tools and resources. He uses everything from the recently released NVEST report, which he called "an essential tool in guiding policy on our campus," to the SVA Chapter Grant Program, and the many relationships he's developed with SVA partners, which he says "provides many outstanding opportunities for many of our veterans".
David's story demonstrates that student veterans are not only succeeding in higher education, but becoming the leaders of tomorrow. It also demonstrates how the diversity of thought and lived experiences are truly a strength for SVA chapter leaders, and a cornerstone for SVA as a national organization. SVA Voices is an ongoing campaign celebrating student veteran success. Become a part of the campaign and share your story today!