PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. -- When returning home from active duty, many veterans wonder what's next. Thanks to Pace University's Veteran Services and the Veterans’ Education Challenge, serving those who serve our country has become mission critical.
"We had 122 veteran graduates last academic year," said Robert Rahni, Associate Director of Veteran Services at Pace. "As of the spring semester, Pace had 350 veterans enrolled across both campuses, the most we’ve ever had." Most veterans are between 25 and 30 years old, said Rahni, and predominantly served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. "We also have a number of vets from the more recent campaigns who were part of Operation New Dawn from 2010-2014, and currently, Operation Inherent Resolve, the campaign to eliminate ISIS."
While many veterans use the GI Bill to begin or finish their degrees, a percentage of those who return are unable to receive full tuition coverage. "If a service member does not fulfill at least 36 months of Title 10 active duty service post 2001, they are not fully covered," said Rahni "Through no fault of their own, many veterans fall short of the necessary three years to be completely covered through the CH 33 Post 9/11 GI Bill which includes contributions from Pace’s robust, unlimited Yellow Ribbon Program."
Recognizing this gap in funding, filmmaker Avis Richards began work on an ambitious plan to raise one million dollars by Veterans Day to aid those struggling with this education shortfall. She has pledged to match dollar-for-dollar up to the first million dollars raised towards this meaningful cause. Through a series of public service announcements and video vignettes, Richards tells the stories of six Pace student veterans, a few of whom are ineligible to receive full tuition reimbursement through the GI Bill.
The videos have been part of a year-long series aired on WPIX 11’s evening news telecast.
In his experience assisting service members and veterans transition from combat to classroom to career, Rahni has seen an outpouring of gratitude from those he helps. "Veterans of today’s era, similar to those who preceded them, are as appreciative a group as I have ever worked with. It should be us thanking them." He attributes this to the fact that veterans of the recent conflict, having served in an all-volunteer force, possess an unequivocal level of altruism and kindness.
Each of the six WPIX profiles can be viewed below: