The University of Michigan Health System and the Student Veterans of America have developed a peer-to-peer program to assist veterans with campus support.
The Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE) program was developed in Michigan and has been fully implemented at 12 schools across the country. This fall 30 more schools nationwide will be joining the program. PAVE has also partnered with the VA to expand VA's campus outreach and assistance programs.
What is the PAVE Program?
The PAVE program connects incoming student veterans with student veterans already on campus in order to help them navigate college life, identify challenges they are facing, refer them to the appropriate resource on or off campus, and provide ongoing support to their academic and personal ventures.
PAVE links trained student veterans at participating schools with incoming student veterans to create a campus community where support and resources can be easily accessed. PAVE also works with participating universities to share best practices to engage student veterans and assist them in their academic pursuits.
Why is the PAVE Program Important?
Since the Post-9/11 GI Bill began, large numbers of veterans have been enrolling in colleges. According to the VA, over 850,000 people are using the GI Bill this year alone. This large influx of veterans has put a strain on existing campus assistance services and brought to light the different challenges veterans face as college students.
Many studies suggest that student veterans face additional challenges while transitioning to the academic and civilian world. One reason for this is the gap in school attendance caused by serving in the military, most incoming college students are straight out of high school. Also, veterans have a different set of life experiences including combat, deployment, a family to support, and self-disciple they gained from the military service.
While some of these experiences can benefit veterans, often veterans do not seek assistance with other challenges they are facing because of the stigma associated with asking for help, and the self-relience they are taught in the military.
Numerous studies on the effectiveness of peer-to-peer approaches have demonstrated that peers "who have been there" can be a credible source of support, and can help others overcome stigma issues, opening the door to improved well-being.
How the PAVE Program Works
The PAVE Program works by recruiting college campuses to create a peer support program specifically for the student veterans on their campus. PAVE collaborates with Veteran Service Coordinators at participating schools to recruit and train student veterans who have successfully transitioned from military to college to be "Peer Advisors".
Peer Advisors work one-on-one with incoming student veterans to help them transition to campus life. They provide a source of support for other student veterans as well as help identify concerns and provide resource suggestions that fit their particular situation. The PAVE staff provides training and implementation support to Veteran Service Coordinators and Peer Advisors. PAVE tailors its program model for each campus according to the specific needs and culture of that campus.
At some schools, the position of Team Leader was created to provide a platform for student veterans to work directly on managing the PAVE program on their campus by promoting the program, recruiting and managing Peer Advisors, and create awareness of veterans' issues.