From Military Life to Student Life - Bob Woodruff Foundation

From Military Life to Student Life

With the support of the NFL and the Bob Woodruff FoundationPROVE has the six of our veterans by building a support network specifically focused on their educational needs.

Project for Return and Opportunity in Veterans Education (PROVE) understands that veterans have unique needs when it comes to ensuring success in an academic environment. PROVE utilizes support teams which include social work interns, student veteran mentors, and experienced field instructors to maximize assistance for students transitioning from the military to college. The interns, mentors, and field instructors work together along with other campus staff to connect new and current student veterans to the resources they need as they transition from military life to student life.

PROVE has a presence on multiple college campuses across New York City. The Bob Woodruff Foundation is proud to have a longstanding relationship with PROVE, which started with our first grant to PROVE in 2013. Most recently we provided an NFL-Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) partnership “Healthy Lifestyles and Creating Community” grant to enable PROVE to improve the military cultural competence of graduate student social workers. The grant was also issued to improve the academic outcomes and psychological wellness of student veteran communities across seven NYC college campuses.

Crafting an approach to education that is specifically tailored to student veterans is critical.

“The way that things are taught in the military is not the same way that things are taught in a traditional liberal arts education,” Leora Shudofsky, Project Co-Director/Educational Coordinator at PROVE said.

Shudofsky has been a social worker for over 30 years and has spent the vast majority of this time on college campuses. She has worked with all types of students during this time and understands that we all have different needs when it comes to learning. Her experience has taught her to see “people as individuals, not in monolithic groups. I approach people and situations with humility and without judgment. I look for people’s strengths. That is the same approach I’ve taken in my work with PROVE, with our student veterans, and our student interns.”

One of PROVE’s primary goals is to help students transition smoothly from a military setting into an academic one. A successful transition requires much more than filling out enrollment forms and making sure student veterans show up for class. Many of the students transitioning have not been in a traditional classroom since their high school days.

Shudofsky understands multiple factors can make the transition for veterans into the classroom difficult. Children and even adult learners often have a tendency to interact with peers that they feel they can relate to. This natural tendency can be problematic for student veterans because they are, in many instances, older than their classroom peers and the only student with military experience.

“Being in classrooms with fellow students who do not share the lived experiences that student veterans have and who likely do not have the same sense of discipline and purpose can make the transition challenging,” Shudofsky said. “That is where we believe PROVE can be helpful. If a student veteran can get through their degree program, it greatly assists the rest of their transition experience.”

PROVE has created a multi-faceted infrastructure to help the transition. PROVE interns play a critical role in the process and experience ongoing training to keep them up to date on the benefits and services available to veterans. This allows them to be a go-to resource for student veterans. Subject matter experts are also brought into the fold to help provide additional assistance and insight for the interns. Peer mentors, who are veterans, are also essential to the program and in guiding the interns. These mentors have a first-hand understanding of what it means to be a student veteran and their insight is invaluable.

All of the effort and resources dedicated to helping veteran students are necessary. Student veterans often hesitate to seek out mental health services and may not always feel comfortable disclosing their personal lives to their civilian peers. PROVE has strategically located its offices at student veteran resource centers, making sure their presence is strongest where these students feel most comfortable accessing services on campus.

PROVE is not only helping student veterans advance their career through obtaining a college education (which equates to a significantly higher lifetime income) but they are providing the social work field with a pool of candidates that possess essential skills for the workplace. While PROVE is officially focused on helping student veterans in their academic journey, they may actually be preparing their interns for a long-term career in helping veterans.

“Twenty-two percent of PROVE interns have gone on to work with the larger veteran population either in their second-year placement or after graduating with their Master’s in Social Work degree,” Shudofsky said. “That is a remarkable outcome.”