UCF’s Supply Vault for Student Veteran Success officially launched earlier this week. Sponsored by the UCF Community Veterans History Project in partnership with the UCF Veterans Academic Resource Center, the vault demonstrates UCF’s appreciation for student veterans’ service in the U.S. military.
Barbara Gannon, associate professor of history and coordinator of the Veterans History Project, has been involved with the Supply Vault for Student Veteran Success since the project’s inception.
“Our vision is to use this vault as a way of welcoming veterans to the UCF community,” says Gannon. “Veterans’ homecomings can be difficult, but we want to use this to ease their transition to UCF and higher education.”
The vault offers a collection of school supplies selected by student veterans for student veterans, including noise-canceling headphones, wireless keyboards, voice recorders, blue light glasses, smart notebooks and external hard drives. These items are provided to student veterans at no cost.
“We also want to introduce them to the UCF Community Veterans History Project,” Gannon says. “We want them to know that we value them and their stories. The supply vault is also a tangible way of letting them know of our gratitude for their service.”
Fundraising for the vault came from the 2019 macramé Yellow Ribbon Project. In partnership with the Central Florida Yellow Ribbon Project and local artist Victoria Walsh, UCF students, faculty, staff and community members macraméd trees lining Memory Mall. Twenty-eight of the 30 trees were sponsored by colleges, departments and organizations, including the College of Arts and Humanities.
For history student Michael Richardson, the vault holds a personal significance. As a U.S. Navy veteran, he’s closely familiar with the struggle of returning to civilian life following military service, not to mention the difficulty of adjusting to life as a full-time student.
“The adjustment from service really was a nightmare,” Richardson says. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do — going to classes. I would literally drive all the way and sit in my car, but I wasn’t able to go in. I dropped out of school for about three years.”
With the help of therapy and getting involved with the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, Richardson was able to return to his studies and found a passion for history. At UCF, Gannon recommended he get involved with the Veterans History Project. After participating in an oral history interview, he became a research assistant with the project and was instrumental in the planning and execution of the vault.
“I started doing research, and I started looking at all the stuff around me that I had been using,” says Richardson. “And I’m like, ‘OK, these are the tools that have made me successful as a student; things that I’ve had to kind of piece together for myself for the last six years.’”
Richardson’s experience as both a veteran and UCF student gave him a unique perspective when planning and procuring items for the vault. Having experienced the difficulties of reacclimating to civilian and student life himself, he understands how simple items such as noise-cancelling headphones and voice recorder pens can make a huge difference in the day-to-day life of student veterans.
“There are so many triggers that a lot of [student veterans] won’t even know they have,” he says. “If I can help them avoid even one stressor in their day — helping them to get over those hurdles will help them be better Knights.”