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Stephens College to open center for women veterans

 A woman veteran holds a young girl with the Mission Promise Kept and Stephens College Logo in the lower right corner
Courtesy of Mission Promise Kept
Mission Promise Kept will start its second year at Stephens College in the fall.

Stephens College will open the Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success on campus in August. The center is funded by a $600,612 grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The center will house Mission Promise Kept, a program made to help women veterans get college degrees. It will also host workshops for wellness activities like cooking, meditating and yoga.

The program seeks to address barriers that women veterans face. Women veterans are more than twice as likely to become homeless as women who did not serve in the military, according to the VA. The VA also reports that 1 in 3 women veterans experienced military sexual trauma.

“And that’s a conservative number,” Herrera said. Some aren’t comfortable disclosing their experiences until much later or at all, she said.

Elizabeth Herrera, executive director of Mission Promise Kept, said these workshops and other resources will enhance the skills and quality of life of women veterans that get involved.

Mission Promise Kept takes a person-centered and holistic approach, Herrera said. It offers students apartment-style housing on campus with a built-in community of other women veterans. They can also provide free or low-cost childcare and access to medical, legal and social services.

Amanda Shoemaker met Herrera at a school fair on Whiteman Air Force Base. Now, she lives in a two-bedroom apartment at Stephens College studying nursing. Her neighbors are also women veterans.

“I think it’s a positive,” Shoemaker said. “I think it's nice to kind of have that community of veterans. We've gone through the same thing, so we connect better than if I was talking to someone else, like a civilian.”

Herrera said she’ll spend much of the next academic year traveling to find more people for the program.

“We really want to focus on understanding and addressing their sense of belonging,” Herrera said. Women veterans often don’t feel like they belong, she said.

“How do we redefine our strategy in making sure they understand that they do belong here, and that they are welcomed?” Herrera asked. “We want them here, and we want them to succeed.”

Those interested can find more information on the Mission Promise Kept website.

Abby Lee is a student at the University of Missouri studying journalism and women’s and gender studies. She has interned with mxdwn Music and The Missouri Review.
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