Kent State students create Kent Cares to support student veterans

Anne-Marie Colant and Samantha Meisenburg

Supporters of Student Veterans of America (SSVA) is a movement for those wanting to help student veterans transition into the classroom.

New to the Kent community, SSVA is a local affiliate of Student Veterans of America, a national organization to help student veterans throughout their higher education.

Currently, there are approximately 1,300 SVA affiliate chapters nationwide, with more than 440,000 members.

“SSVA is not only a campaign but a movement to educate the students and community of Kent,” said Danie Minor, a senior public relations major and co-creator of SSVA. “We want to educate them on the resources available for student veterans.”

The Kent affiliate of SSVA is dedicated to Bradley “Sonny” Sonenstein, a Kent State graduate student and Air Force veteran who committed suicide in November 2015.

“He was a selfless and amazing person who fought for student veteran rights to make sure that they had everything understood about what was available to them and their GI Bill,” Minor said.

Taylor Meade, a junior public relations major and a co-creator of SSVA, said the movement is a convenience for supporters.

“From our research, we realized that a lot of student veterans have families and when they leave campus for the day, they aren’t inclined to come back. So we wanted to create a movement if someone wanted to support them, they can do it online on their own time.” Meade said.

While supporters can pledge to support veterans and access resources online, the local SSVA has partnered with the downtown Kent community through an initiative called Kent Cares.

Through this partnership, businesses have the opportunity to hang a sticker in their windows, saying it offers a discount, as well as a friendly environment to veterans. Some businesses just began offering this discount, while others were excited about the opportunity to advertise what it already offered.  

“We were sitting around one day and thought ‘what could businesses downtown do to help the veterans?’” Minor said. “We drafted a letter and took it downtown. You would be surprised how businesses are receptive to helping out the city of Kent.”

Businesses that have joined the movement include: The Rise and Shine Cafe, Guys Pizza and GRAZERS. All were eager to help out Kent students in any way they could, Meade said.

“Rise and Shine, we only talked to the owner for five minutes,” Meade said. “She wanted to put the sticker on the door herself.”

Stacey Lasher, owner of GRAZERS, was inspired by the movement.

“My dad was a veteran and I have a lot of family who were veterans, so it really hit home for me,” Lasher said. “I used to teach and was always in charge of the veterans day program, but now that I am in the restaurant business this is a way I can give back.”

The SSVA and Kent Cares will host their first event at Tree City Coffee. Even though Tree City could not be a part of the program, it still wanted to help in any way possible.

“They weren’t able to partner with us but did give us a free space for two hours and will offer a discount the night of,” said Minor. “We’re really excited about this.”

On Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m, Tree City Coffee will partner with the SSVA and host a Happy Hour, where student veterans and ROTC members will receive a 20 percent discount with a military ID.

Students on campus can help support this movement by going to their website and watching the videos, taking the pledge and go to the places that support the movement.

Anne-Marie Colant is the downtown and neighborhoods reporter for The Kent Stater. Samantha Meisenburg is the veteran affairs reporter. Contact them at [email protected] or [email protected].