VETS program aims to help veterans returning to the classroom

Mary Tillman
Josh Karrasch (photo by Jim MacKenzie)

In April, a campus group launched a new program for some special members of the population: veterans.

The program, called Veterans Education Team Support (VETS) and run by Services for Transfer and Re-Entry Students (STARS), is for veterans returning to school. It works by peer-mentorship, in which veterans can meet with other veterans and get help navigating admission and the transition into university life. The program also offers ongoing support.

Josh Karrasch, a veteran of the U.S. Navy and a UCSC student completing his bachelor's degree in psychology and premedical requirements, is coordinating the program.

Capitola Book Café will hold a benefit event for VETS featuring Mary Tillman, author of Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman, on Tuesday, June 3, at 7:30 p.m. Capitola Book Café is located at 1475 41st Ave., #G, Capitola.

In response to the 9/11 attacks, Pat Tillman walked away from a multimillion-dollar NFL contract to enlist as a ranger in the U.S. Army. On April 22, 2004, he was killed in Afghanistan in what the administration and the Pentagon initially portrayed as a dramatic gun battle with the enemy. Today, despite seven investigations, five of them launched because of the family's insistence, what really happened remains fraught with contradictions.

In Boots on the Ground by Dusk, Mary Tillman shares the story of her son's life and the Tillman family's tenacious efforts to uncover the truth about his death.

For $35, event participants receive one copy of the book and two tickets to the event; $5 from each book/ticket package sale will be donated to the UCSC VETS program. Tickets are on sale now. For more information about the event, call the Book Café at (831) 462-4415.

VETS peer mentors are currently enrolled UCSC student veterans who want to help their fellow veterans reach their educational goals. They are trained by campus and community professionals in admissions criteria, financial aid application procedures, veterans' educational benefits, university academic requirements, and related learning and personal support services. They also are getting the chance to hone their communication and problem-solving skills, learn to recognize mental health and substance abuse issues, become informed about campus and community resources, and understand when, and how, to make appropriate referrals.

STARS is the home base for VETS where students can drop in, call or email to connect with a peer mentor or professional STARS adviser. Peer mentors are also available for consultation and outreach to community programs and agencies that are working with veterans returning to school.

For more information about the VETS program, call STARS at 9-4968.