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SVA Voices • Hakeem Thomas:
As a part of our mission supporting student veterans in their transition into higher education and civilian life, Student Veterans of America (SVA) shares their success stories through SVA Voices. Through storytelling, we are able to highlight student veteran success, and inspire the next generation of student veterans.
Hakeem Thomas, a native of Philadelphia, served in the Army National Guard and graduated in May 2017 from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania (BU) with a B.A. in Criminal Justice and a B.S. in Digital Forensics.
It was while he was deployed overseas with the Army in 2012, that Hakeem developed an interest in studying the behaviors of cyber criminals. With a background in computer science, he started to think about studying digital forensics when he returned home. And that's exactly what he did.
He originally chose digital forensics because he "wanted to make a difference in the Cyber Security/Digital Forensics field. My goal is to help stop human trafficking and child exploitation, and I believe my major will help with that."
"I knew that I could probably find a job in the information technology field, but a focus on digital forensics would make me more marketable to law enforcement agencies," said Thomas. "When I learned that Bloomsburg had one of the top five digital forensics programs in the country, it was really a no-brainer for me to" attend BU. Thomas enrolled at BU in 2013. He quickly became active in the Bloomsburg University Student Veterans Association (BUSVA) where he most recently served as Chapter President.
Hakeem commented, "If it wasn't for BUSVA, I would have been lost. When I started at BU, I was only a few weeks back from a deployment and missed being down range. BUSVA then consisted of 4 active members, but they were there when I needed them. They always went to bat for me. I don't know where I'd be without them."
"The greatest part of being a student veteran is having another mission to complete. Often, we come home and no longer have a mission, which can drive us crazy," Hakeem added.
"We take care of our own. We make sure every new student veteran applies for the right GI Bill. We make sure that they are squared away the first week of school. When one of us is having a tough time in school, we step in. We speak with professors, and make sure they have peer-to-peer tutoring, and every tool they need to succeed. We also hold three socials per semester, to take a break from school, relax and hang out."
His advice to veterans newly enrolling in higher education is, "Get involved with the SVA group on your campus. Whether it's just hanging out or community service, become an active member. School will be a lot easier when you have other veterans helping you complete your mission."
The SVA HQ programs he recommends to others include NatCon, SVA's Annual National Conference, which he has attended twice. SVA Scholarships and, the SVA Chapter Grant Program and the Vet Center Initiative Grant are also programs that Hakeem has found particularly helpful for he and his chapter. At NatCon 2016, with more than 200 companies interviewing veterans, Hakeem met with recruiters from Northrop Grumman, a leading global security company. He was later offered and accepted an internship with the company. This past year he and 8 other BUSVA'ers attended NatCon 2017 and he commented that attendance at NatCon is so useful to student veterans that he is "looking forward to assisting my chapter with attending the next conference".
SVA Voices is an ongoing campaign celebrating student veteran success. Become a part of the campaign and share your story today!