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Patriots’ Casa on pace to open in July

The Patriots' Casa will offer counseling services and training to military veterans to help them transition into higher education and into the civilian workforce. Photo by Monica Lamadrid
The Patriots’ Casa will offer counseling services and training to military veterans to help them transition into higher education and into the civilian workforce. Photo by Monica Lamadrid

By Adrian “Jax” Garcia

Work on the Patriots’ Casa, the first building to serve Texas A&M-San Antonio’s growing military student population, continues on schedule toward its July 2014 planned completion. The facility begins full operation in the fall.

Information security junior Raymond Montanez says he loves the idea behind the new Patriots’ Casa.

Montanez, an Army veteran who left military service in 2008, received an Associate of Arts from Northwest Vista College in 2012 and transferred to A&M-San Antonio.

“The Patriots’ Casa will definitely help veterans who are seeking advice on going to school,” Montanez said.

The building provides quarters for academic and psychological support of student veterans, their military families, and military personnel enrolled at the university. It also helps enable veterans attending on the G.I. bill to adjust to an academic environment.

The structure includes a learning center, tutoring lab, counseling center and student lounge.

Its main goal is retention, focusing on military students who may be struggling in the classroom or their personal lives. A partnership between the university and Texas State University also provides military affairs interns to assist students at the Patriots’ Casa.

Richard Delgado, Jr., director of Military Community Support, an A&M-San Antonio graduate and Marine, is enthusiastic about the academic advising and support services available at Patriots’ Casa.

“Anything we can do to help…healing for vets,” he said. “We will have peer to peer counseling sessions and private counseling if our students don’t feel comfortable talking to other students. Our job is to fit the needs of our students.”

The first floor holds two computer labs, a formal events room, and a gallery that includes borrowed items such as letters, photos, and other wartime memorabilia from former soldiers during their service in the military.

The second floor serves the advancement of students, not just veterans.

“Our military student body is not necessarily veterans. We have a large number of active reservists and active duty students who need these services,” Delgado said. “…and everything will be available to all students as well.”

The floor includes military financial aid offices and a lounge for all students who wish to utilize its big screen televisions, gaming centers and two story indoor/outdoor fireplaces.

Montanez is excited to learn about Patriots’ Casa’s commitment to advising and financial aid for military students.

“We (veterans) had a lot of problems speaking to people about V.A. assistance at Northwest Vista. … Sometimes we would wait four hours in line with the general public when all we needed was a signature,” Montanez added.

Upon hearing of Patriots’ Casa veteran based services, Montanez responded, “We don’t want segregation. We just want someone that is dedicated to the military students, and I’m glad that something like Patriots’ Casa has come along, especially here at A&M-SA.”

PatriotsCasaThe second floor houses the ROTC programs that officially becomes part of the A&M-San Antonio campus.

Current ROTC cadets split time between A&M-San Antonio and the ROTC program at St. Mary’s University; a program that the Patriots’ Casa will see jump from seven cadets to 15 in the fall semester.

“Our ROTC program is in conjunction with St. Mary’s, so our cadets have to study academically here, then travel to St. Mary’s for training. Once the Patriots’ Casa is completed, we will be able to house all ROTC matters here on campus,” Delgado added.

“It’s going to be a place for everyone to enjoy. It’s going to be great.”

Delgado describes it as the first of its kind for military students with the scheduled ribbon cutting ceremony in early November.

“We expect many people for our ceremony,” Delgado said. “…military students, veterans, local politicians, and military personnel from the Pentagon.”

Delgado added the event ceremony coincides with Veterans Day festivities and includes career fairs and academic advising for all students who wish to further their education.

“It seems appropriate for Veterans Day,” Delgado added. “We will take over the building in July, but the process of adding all the finishing touches will make November the best time to open to students.”

Other local universities, such as the University of Incarnate Word, have similar military oriented centers. Of 8,865 students enrolled at UIW in Fall 2013, 15 percent consisted of a military student percentage, according to UIW public relations directors Margaret Garcia and Roland Carrillo.

Meanwhile, A&M-San Antonio wishes to expand on their military support center and build better relationships with their military students through Patriots’ Casa.

The current military affairs office is located at the small Gillette Campus, just inside Loop 410 and Zarzamora. It assists current and prospective military students and their families, and was one of the first buildings to hold classes for A&M-San Antonio in 2009.

After the summer move to a much larger facility, Patriots’ Casa becomes a mecca for military students who wish to pursue a wide variety of degree plans and certification programs.

The center serves about 12 percent of the university’s military affiliated enrollment. That’s roughly 520 of 4,329 students, and with the military population growth at a rate of close to 27 percent annually, the Patriots’ Casa fills the growing demands of military students.

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