Seniors Jessica Henderson and Andrea Martinez are part of a special group on campus—student-veterans. After serving their country, both decided to pursue higher education at TLU. Henderson, a kinesiology and psychology double major spent seven years with the Air Force in security forces while Martinez, a kinesiology major, completed four years active duty as an aviation structural mechanic for the Navy before transitioning into the reserves as a Boatswain's Mate.
Both students are no stranger to how important camaraderie and community are, and they have found that at TLU.
“The university provides military-specific academic assistance and strong financial support,” Martinez said. “The veterans lounge in Freedom Hall establishes a welcoming environment and the staff helped me have a smooth transition from active military to college life. TLU has an excellent support system, the college is military friendly, and we have the best staff and administrators. My military skills also translated quite easily, and I use things like communication, leadership, problem solving abilities, and teamwork regularly as a student.”
Henderson says TLU has welcomed her, other veterans, and dependents with open arms.
“It has given me a family like atmosphere that I thought I wouldn’t find again after separating from the military,” she said. “The other vets I encounter in Freedom Hall can relate and we speak each other’s language.”
At first, Henderson says she wasn’t sure about going to college because of how many people there are on typical college campuses. However, she’s found TLU’s private, residential atmosphere is a great fit.
“I feel more comfortable and like my professors actually care about what’s going on with me and how I’m doing,” she said. “That support is something I didn’t know I needed. I also love that we have our own space in Freedom Hall for when we need a nice place to relax and be to ourselves.”
She is also honest, acknowledging that her decision to pursued college hasn’t always been an easy experience.
“I wasn’t even out for two weeks before being accepted and I still had a lot of healing to do both spiritually and mentally,” she said. “Even though I loved the smaller class sizes, the beautiful campus, and the benefits TLU had to offer veterans, I still felt out of place having not been in school for nearly seven years. I didn’t feel like I belonged here or at school in general. But I kept going to class and eventually began to realize I do belong. Everyone belongs if you are willing to work hard and get involved. TLU is a place where everyone from every background can feel at home and like they belong no matter what kind of healing process you are going through.”
For Henderson, her military experience has shaped who she is as a student and a person.
“I think being in the military first helped me feel more prepared mentally for any pressures or stress school threw my way,” she said. “No matter how tough or stressful it has gotten, I remind myself I’ve been through and seen worse. Being here at TLU is what I prayed to be doing for so long. I’m just appreciating that I’m here and that helps me focus to get things done. My time serving has also helped me to be organized, have a plan, manage my time, and to be honest. I would encourage interested students and veterans thinking about going back to school to enroll, even if it’s just a starting point and you end up somewhere else. TLU offers an amazing family and supportive environment where you can flourish.”