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SVA Voices • James Gilchrest:
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.
SVA’s mission is to support student veterans as they move to and through college, and then beyond college to graduate school or the workforce. James Cameron Gilchrest is a student veteran, who served with the Alaska National Guard and recently transferred to the Air National Guard. He exemplifies the successful transition so many student veterans are making.
James graduated in the spring of 2017 from the University of Alaska - Fairbanks with a Bachelors of Emergency Management,Leadership Distinction and a minor in General Business. In addition to being the first in his family to graduate from college, he received many honors during his college years including 2016-17 Outstanding Student of the year for his program, nominated for commencement speaker, and selected as the Trio Day speaker. He also worked as a resident assistant, student ambassador, orientation assistant, and orientation leader. In addition to all this, James was a very active leader in his SVA chapter.
His next step is earning his Masters in Security and Disaster Management with the goal of working with an organization that supports veterans who are entering higher education. James wants “to be in the business of student veteran success.” He is already well on that journey, as he is currently a Newman’s Own Foundation Fellow working with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University in New York. He describes his experience at IVMF as, “life changing because I am creating a network of leaders and mentors that I otherwise would never have had the chance to meet.Every day, I'm working with an organization that is committed to the success of veterans and their families and that too is life changing. I get to see the impact of IVMF every day. I am part of an amazing team, that is one big family at the end of the day. IVMF knows their "WHY" embraces change, explores innovative thinking and values the growth of its people. Every single day so far, I've learned something new, all that being said I'm beyond blessed to have an opportunity of a life time”.
At IVMF, James is a Program Assistant for AmericaServes. The mission of AmericaServes is to empower a coordinated network of human services in the United States, and equip them with the technological and informational resources needed to efficiently and effectively guide service members, veterans, and their families to the most appropriate services and resources.
James went on to explain, “none of this would be possible without Eric Gage, SVA’s Director of Programs, who sent me an email inviting me to apply for the Newman’s Own Foundation Fellowship, and Newman's Own Foundation ultimately taking a chance on me”.
This is just one of SVA’s resources that James found useful. He also utilized the chapter success guide to help revamp his chapter after all of the chapter leadership graduated. “At Student Veterans of UAF, I served in basically every officer role there is.”
Like many vets, James said, when he started college, ”I did not think that becoming part of the campus culture would do anything for me; I thought that going to orientation would make me look weak. However, luckily, I shot my pride in the foot and took my arrogant self to new student orientation, where I met my future boss and a mentor. When I went to orientation, I found out that there was a student veteran's orientation, I met some amazing people there and they encouraged me to get involved, and connect with other organizations. If I chose not to attend orientation that day, I am not sure where I would be.” Getting involved with the student veterans orientation, is what ultimately connected James with the Student Veterans of America. He adds that, “every single student veteran should know about the SVA, it fosters and honors student veteran success.”
His advice to other student veterans is to “build community, make connections, and do things you love while in school. “Ultimately, the opportunities I took part in helped ease the ‘transition after the transition’ which for me was the transition into college and then the transition from college to the workplace.” He also encourages student veterans and their families to explore the many programs (IVMF) offers
James’ story exemplifies what student veterans around the country are doing as they move to, through, and beyond higher education, and into a success career and a lifetime of service. SVA Voices is an ongoing campaign celebrating student veteran success. Become a part of the campaign and share your story today!