SVO honored at Statehouse for being top chapter in country

Ravyn Cullor

“Thank you for your service” is one thing; awarding student veterans for working to improve each other’s lives in higher education is another. 

Colorado State University’s chapter of the Student Veterans Organization was honored at the Colorado Statehouse on the school’s 150th birthday for being named the top chapter in the nation. 

Ad

The CSU SVO was awarded Jan. 5 as the “Chapter of the Year” out of over 1,500 national chapters, according to the Statehouse award.

CSU chapter president and senior psychology major Josh Johnson said the CSU SVO is not just a social organization, but a professional development organization for student veterans.

The award was requested by Sen. Rob Woodward (R-Colo.) on the recommendation of his legislative aide Kurtis Cunningham, a CSU alumnus and U.S. Air Force veteran, Johnson said.

“That was very exciting, knowing that it came from a student veteran helping put Colorado State in the front of the news around the nation for being a destination university for student veterans,” Johnson said.

We’re benchmarking success stories, and we want to share it with other schools.” -Josh Johnson, president of the Student Veterans Organization

Heather Kent, a CSU senior chemical and biological engineer major, member of the SVO and the president of CSU’s chapter of the national honor society for student veterans, SALUTE (Service, Academics, Leadership, Unity, Tribute, Excellence), said she was proud to represent student veterans at the Statehouse and felt the award was a recognition of the CSU SVO’s “push towards excellence.”

In an emailed statement to The Collegian, CSU President Joyce McConnell said the award was “richly-deserved” and praised the leadership of Johnson and the mentorship of Adult Learners and Veteran Services Director Marc Barker.

“We are so proud of these extraordinary members of the CSU community — they make us better,” McConnell wrote.

SVO Vice President Acacia Mohr, a senior biological science major at CSU, said she believes the award helped to bring awareness to the work and value student veterans are bringing to campuses and is helping destigmatize issues like mental health.

Johnson said the award recognized work the SVO is doing in the area of mental health and suicide prevention. The award specifically references Operation Bear Hug, an obstacle 5K the organization brings to campus annually to educate on suicide prevention.

(Photo courtesy of CSU Student Veterans Organization)

Stigmas around mental health in the veteran community can drive a belief that those who suffer from mental health problems are “broken, in a sense,” Mohr said. She also said this belief is untrue.

Ad

Mohr and Johnson said the CSU SVO’s efforts to create a community of support for fellow student veterans is one of the reasons the chapter was nationally recognized.

“That’s what this award represents,” Johnson said. “That we’re taking care of our veterans, post-military service and military-connected families better than other schools. We’re benchmarking success stories, and we want to share it with other schools.” 

Johnson said the CSU SVO’s efforts to help SVOs across Colorado also plays into the state and national recognition.

“This tribute was the most public way that we could be honored in state government for our work in suicide prevention and also stand out to other universities in Colorado and in the nation (so) that they could do the same,” Johnson said.

Johnson, Mohr and Kent said the CSU SVO has been able to succeed at such a high level because of support across campus.

Support from not only an active student veteran population, but the administration, the ALVS, staff, faculty, traditional students and the community as a whole have had a hand in the strength of their program, they said.

Johnson said the state and national awards give them “a platform and recognition for the hard work we’ve done to make CSU a destination for veterans.”

Woodward couldn’t be reached for comment.

Editor’s note: Josh Johnson is a member of the Board of Directors for Rocky Mountain Student Media, the parent company of The Collegian.

Ravyn Cullor can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @RCullor99.