#GivingTuesday is all about giving back. There’s no better way to promote this message of selfless service than by saluting the men and women who have given so much to, and given up so much more for, all of us: our U.S. military veterans.
There are almost 3 million post-9/11 veterans in the U.S., many of whom are interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree. While liberal arts colleges and universities often struggle to recruit and retain these men and women, Wesleyan is proud to count among its student ranks an ever-increasing number of veterans, thanks to its partnership with the Veterans Posse Program.
Wesleyan began its partnership with the Veterans Posse Program in 2013, in a bid to attract U.S. military veterans by offering four-year scholarships to 10 veterans each year. Wesleyan welcomed its first 10 veterans to campus in fall 2014. Today, there are 30 Posse Veteran Scholars at Wesleyan (and 32 veterans total), with an ultimate goal to have 40 vets on its Middletown, Connecticut, campus at any given time.
With an average age in the late 20s to early 30s and a life history that includes time spent in war-torn countries, working and living under intense, dangerous conditions, Posse Veteran Scholars bring valuable perspectives and diverse life experiences to the Wesleyan campus. This year Wesleyan saluted its Posse Veterans on Veterans Day, as part of its #GivingTuesday campaign, with videos featuring two of its current veteran scholars: Onitra Johnson, 34, from Sacramento, California, and John Fought, 32, from Scottsdale, Arizona.
“As a parachute rigger in the Army, I had a ton of responsibility. Every single day there were people counting on me for their lives,” says Fought, a former U.S. Army parachute rigger focusing his studies in computer science and economics. “Coming to Wesleyan through this program I think is going to open doors for me that never would’ve been open before. I think it’s going to help set up me and my family for success. Coming here I feel like I can really pursue my dreams and do the things that I want to do and accomplish in life. Wesleyan has its own unique culture and I would say it’s just about the exact opposite of the Army. But I feel like real life is somewhere in between. So I feel if I can cut it in the military and I can cut it at Wesleyan, then I can make it anywhere.”
“Getting my degree will put me in a position to get better jobs and, hopefully, will get me to a higher socioeconomic status. And all that will benefit my daughter,” says Johnson, a former U.S. Air Force personalist now studying in the College of Social Studies as well as pursuing film studies. “Plus, the people that I meet here I really believe will help as my daughter gets older. She’ll have more mentors, and she’ll understand what it is to have somebody help her and kind of guide her throughout her life. One day she might come to Wesleyan.”
Wesleyan values a student body that is diverse in all respects, including first-generation students, students from underserved backgrounds, and students who served our country. Wesleyan’s 2016 #GivingTuesday campaign includes a $300,000 challenge that will go directly to financial aid once the university receives 3,000 gifts between now and November 29. That money will help provide deserving students and Posse Veterans who might not be able to afford Wesleyan the opportunity to follow their dreams.