From Battlefield to Classroom: Veterans Get Help From CAVS
“I can’t even find the words to express how thankful I am for the experiences I’ve had here,” said Rachel Pike-Lee. “In every degree that I’ve pursued here, this school has always been very accepting. That’s something that really sticks out to me-- how open-minded the entire university is.”
The 32-year-old veteran of the United States Coast Guard finished the accelerated police academy in the summer of 2010 after first earning her undergraduate degree in interpersonal communication studies from Kent State.
Pike-Lee then went on to serve active duty in the United States Coast Guard from 2011-2013.
“I wanted to join the military ever since I was sitting in my eighth grade classroom on Sept. 11, 2001,” Pike-Lee said. “I knew from that day forward I would serve my country in some capacity.”
Pike-Lee was recruited into the Coast Guard Presidential Honor Guard during boot camp, and she later met President Barack Obama while serving in the Honor Guard at the White House. She was eventually selected by the Coast Guard’s Congressional Affairs Office to serve as the sole Coast Guard Congressional Courier on Capitol Hill.
Pike-Lee decided to return to Ohio in 2013 to be closer to relatives, so she returned to police work. After serving as deputy sheriff for four years, Pike-Lee is now using her GI Bill to earn her master's degree in rehabilitation counseling with the support of the Center for Adult and Veteran Services (CAVS). She will graduate in May.
VIQTORY Media deemed Kent State a Military Friendly® School for 11 years in a row. Now, Kent State can be found on the Best for Vets: Colleges 2020 list by Military Times.
According to Joshua Rider, director of CAVS, the ranking shows not just the center’s success, but also the university’s success in the areas of graduation rates, tutoring, retention rates and student Grade Point Averages (GPA). Rider and Sarah Helmick, associate director of CAVS, work directly with service members and veterans to ease the transition to taking college classes.
“Even when I was nervous about starting grad school, I remember meeting with Sarah from CAVS in person and she took the extra time to alleviate my stress just by talking with me,” Pike-Lee said.
“It really allows us to benchmark ourselves against other institutions, to show where we’re at with the services that we provide to our military connected students,” Rider said.
Zachary Wehr, a 34-year-old veteran of the United States Army, was worried when he started his first semester at Kent State. With the support of CAVS, Wehr knew that his problems or concerns could be addressed with a single phone call.
“Josh and Sarah were very good at encouraging me. When I came for my first semester here I was thinking I wouldn’t be good at math,” Wehr said. “I ended up coming back for my second semester, freshman year and got a scholarship for Algebra. That was one of the things I never thought I’d be able to understand, but I did with their encouragement.”
Wehr decided to join the army after the fall of the Twin Towers in 2001, and he served on active duty from 2004-2008. His decision to serve his country was influenced by the veteran status of his mother and both of his grandfathers.
Following in his brother’s footsteps, Wehr is now a sophomore at Kent State studying sociology and psychology.
“My brother graduated from here, and he always said what a good school it was, and I’ve never doubted him,” Wehr said.
“We offer a centralized place where veterans can get their benefits done and connect with campus services that will lead to their success” said Rider. “We also make sure that you’re setup for priority registration. We bring in campus colleagues to do financial literacy and wellness workshops for the population as well.”
Both Pike-Lee and Wehr expressed gratitude for the CAVS program as they look forward to their continued education at Kent State.
“They make it easy,” Wehr said. “Because of them, there’s far less red tape.”