UCSC student veterans promote change in Washington

Students from the UC Santa Cruz chapter of Student Veterans of America (SVA) recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with political leaders and discuss benefits available to student veterans.

The seven Santa Cruz chapter leaders were in Washington, D.C., from April 11-14 to advocate for timely and equal access to benefits available to student veterans and to support political leaders that are fighting to help veterans through legislation.

While in D.C. the group met with fellow student veteran Tammy Duckworth, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) assistant secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, to present the Student Veterans of America 2010 Legislative Agenda and discuss VA benefits available to students.

The Santa Cruz group held a meeting with the chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Rep. Bob Filner, D-CA, in support of his legislation (H.R. 3579) to increase funding available to educational institutions that enroll veterans receiving assistance from the VA. This is a proposed fix to the post-9/11 G.I. Bill that will significantly improve resources available to schools to help their veteran population.

They also secured time to meet with Rep. Sam Farr, D-CA, their district representative, where they discussed possible improvements to veterans' educational benefits and programs specific to UC Santa Cruz.

The group worked with Brian Hawthorne, SVA legislative director, to discuss the details of the 2010 Legislative Agenda as well as messaging and organizing techniques. Finally, they met with staff of the American Council on Education to brainstorm veteran resource programs at colleges throughout the country.

"It is great to see these student veterans take ownership of the issues facing us around the country, and bringing their stories here to Washington to advocate makes a huge difference," Hawthorne said. "Efforts like this add a human element to SVA's overall efforts to improve the lives of student veterans everywhere with our elected leaders."

Along with all members of the UC Santa Cruz SVA chapter, the group spent several months preparing for their "Student Veteran Leadership Convoy to Washington, D.C." They were able to secure some funding for the trip through proposals they created and presented to the students and administrators on campus.

The UC Santa Cruz group that made the trip to D.C. consisted of Dani Molina, Erica Ronquillo, Mary Hayes, Joseph Cresalia, Brian Weir, Luis Padilla, and the chapter president, Daniel Wilson. All seven members hold leadership positions within the SVA at the UC Santa Cruz chapter and are current students or alumni of the campus.

Now that the group is back in California after a successful trip, they plan on continuing the push for legislation that aids student veterans at UC Santa Cruz and across the country.