16:21 PM

Empowering veterans: UHCL offers resources and support for students’ mental health and success

Written by: Lauren Sawyer
Veteran Services

University of Houston- Clear Lake’s Capt. Wendell M. Wilson Office of Military and Veteran Services is committed to ensuring a safe and enriching transition back to civilian life. With over 20 years of experience, former army sergeant, now Executive Director of Military and Veteran Services Director Jason Babin said the experience he had during his college career is what makes him passionate about education, and helping students achieve their goals.

“It showed me that there were gaps in supporting military and veteran students with a lack of understanding and knowledge on those populations,” he said. “I got my first job at a military college, and I absolutely fell in love with it from there.”

Babin said the Military and Veteran Services office provides support, and will never turn anyone seeking help away.

“If there is a veteran, service member, a family member of a service member, or anyone that just wants to help, we will always provide information and guidance on resources on campus, and outside of it,” he said.

Babin explained that the goal of the office is to build a strong community, and for students to feel safe and welcome.

“One important thing in the military is building a community. There isn’t another community like it. Fraternities and sororities may come close to it, but the community within the military is everything,” he said. “Your family members are a part of it, there are support groups for deployment, you go shopping on base and it becomes that ‘little city.’ When you’re outside of that, it can feel like you’re on your own.”

Babin added that the office does benefits certification for the VA, referrals to mental health and provides programming and outreach. However, the most important thing is for students to know that they aren’t alone and to utilize provided resources.

“We want to be that source for assistance. We encourage students to come to us for anything. Whether it’s academic, financial aid, mental health or personal matters. We may not be able to fix it, but we can give them the resources that can.” Babin said.

Junior Anna Marie Detter served in the U.S. Air Force and is now pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences specializing in Ecology. She said she chose this degree because of her love for studying the relationships that organisms have evolved with each other over millennia.

“I want to spend my life bringing the importance of that understanding and knowledge to the masses,” she said.

Detter said she decided to attend UHCL because it was close to family, and is grateful for the unwavering support she has received from working with the Military and Veteran Services office.    

“I began working with this office shortly after I started school at UHCL. My experience includes finding a second family, continuing to serve through my time dedicated to this office, and having a place to regroup when classes get the best of me,” she explained. “We often volunteer our time supporting veterans in our local community; whether that be visiting assisted living facilities or hosting drives to collect items for veterans experiencing homelessness. We always strive to make veterans aware of the benefits allocated to them.”

Detter added that in the military, there is a perpetuated culture to not ask for help, and to be independent.

“If we can't, we're made to feel defective, less than and useless. While it may seem like common sense to some, many veterans and I need to be reminded that asking for help is a sign of strength and self-awareness,” she said.

Detter said she recommends the Military and Veteran Services office to any student, especially military affiliated students. Being around people who share the same struggles, goals, and who have persevered in the face of similar adversities have inspired her to continue her journey.

“We aim to create an environment of camaraderie, and foster feelings of acceptance. We love to better our community by bettering ourselves. Let’s generate a better tomorrow for everyone through our actions today,” she said.

Babin said he also struggled in college being too independent, and not taking advantage of resources that were provided. But UHCL offers learning beyond the classroom.

“There are so many tools at our university for students to be successful. In the military we’re taught not to show weakness, but it puts us at a big disadvantage in higher education,” he said. “Our Counseling and Mental Health Center, Career Services, Campus Recreation and Wellness, Hawk Pantry and Student Success Center are all available to them.”

Military and Veteran Services will host a Veterans Day Celebration this Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023, from 10:30 a.m.-noon in Atrium II of the Bayou Building. Babin said Veterans Day is an opportunity to show respect and honor service members. There will be guest speakers, a choir and color guard and lunch will be served.

Babin said there are always more opportunities to help and be involved with the ongoing efforts of building community for veterans at UHCL.

“Reach out to our office, come talk to us. We will find a way for you to be a part of our supportive network. There is always more work to do,” he said. “There is no finish line in this journey, we’re going to keep going.”

For more information about UHCL’s Military and Veteran Services visit, www.uhcl.edu/veteran-services/.