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Veteran Resource Center opens at Ole Miss

The University of Mississippi opened its first Veteran Resource Center today.

The VRC, located near the Grove in the bottom floor of Yerby Hall, will include study spaces, common areas and printing services. Evan Ciocci, the Student Veterans Association president, says having a space like the VRC is a step in the right direction.

“With the Veteran Resource Center opening up, we will finally have our own space for student veterans,” Ciocci said. “We will provide academic support, a study space and hangout spot.The biggest benefit of the VRC will be having a space where we can all be together, just showing other veterans there is a space for us, and you do belong here.”

The VRC will only be open to veterans and service members, accessible by swiping their student ID cards.

Around 1,300 people on campus receive G.I. benefits, either as veterans, service members or their dependents. Ciocci says there are around 100 veterans on campus, and until now, there wasn’t an exclusive place for them to go.

Former SVA president Trent Bishop says a resource center for veterans and service members is a key to success.

“Many times when a campus is missing a VRC or equivalent, we miss the mark in facilitating the needs of a special group that has enhanced skills and needs,” he said. “Once they are under one roof, that makes for a more productive student veteran.”

Dr. Kyle Ellis, Director of the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience, says the university is pleased to make a space like the VRC a reality.

“Allocating space to them is something the University has looked forward to for quite some time,” Ellis said. “The VRC is a place where they can come together away from the hustle and bustle of student life.”

In addition to the VRC, Ciocci says the SVA is also working on the Purple Heart Parking Initiative, which would give preferential parking to anyone who has earned a Purple Heart.

“One of the big things the SVA has coming up this year, in conjunction with the Veteran and Military Services office, is trying to push forward the Purple Heart Parking Initiative,” he said.  “We’re the only place in Mississippi where the county, city and university are Purple Heart designated communities. So now, with this initiative, it’s just a step forward.”

The parking initiative would allow those who have earned a Purple Heart to park anywhere on campus except for reserved spots, thanks to a special car tag.

The SVA is also working on a license plate design that would be available statewide. Once it gets approved, SVA treasurer Adam Morris says the proceeds from the license plate sales will go towards improving the VRC.

“We’re starting a fundraising initiative for the Veterans Resource Center on campus,” Morris said. “To do this, we will be implementing a new license plate across the state of Mississippi and the proceeds from the sales will go towards the funding of the new facility.”

One of the main goals for the SVA, Ciocci says, is helping veterans on campus find a place they belong. Many times, student veterans are in their mid-twenties or higher, while traditional students are between ages 18 to 22.

Ciocci says the new VRC is just the beginning, and hopes to grow the center to rival that of other SEC schools.

“Mississippi State has this amazing veteran resource center, and Alabama has a great one, but they have almost 4,000 people on benefits, and that’s the thing the University of Mississippi is missing out on,” he said. “As the student veteran population continues to grow on campus, it’s only going to grow and get better. It’s my hope that in ten years, we’ll have something similar.”