University honors student veterans

SF State celebrated Veterans Day on Nov. 8 with an outdoor ceremony honoring student veterans, including the 2013 recipient of the Nancy Pelosi Scholarship.

During the ceremony, Alex Lazar, a representative from the office of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, presented Ben Yang, president of VETS@SFSU, with a $1,500 scholarship check. The Nancy Pelosi Scholarship for National Service was established in 2012 to support student veterans at SF State. VETS@SFSU stands for Veterans Education Transition and Support and is a student organization for veterans, their families and friends.

A photo of President Leslie Wong receiving a sweatshirt from the VETS@SFSU student organization during a Veterans Day ceremony at SF State.

President Leslie Wong receives a sweatshirt from the VETS@SFSU student organization during Friday's Veterans Day ceremony at SF State.

Friday's celebration also marked the first anniversary of the VETS Corner, a communal space in Burk Hall with amenities for student veterans to study, socialize and host outreach events. The VETS Corner hosted a reception for attendees following the ceremony.

The event began with the presentation of color by the University of San Francisco ROTC color guard, which ceremonially raised the American flag. Nicole Jolene Gabel, winner of the SF State's Voice competition, performed the national anthem, which was followed by remarks from Veterans Services Coordinator Rogelio Manaois.

"Today is a day for veterans, a day to celebrate the one-year anniversary of VETS Corner with our new partners, our old partners, and our friends here at SF State," Manaois said.

Among the attendees at Friday's event were SF State President Leslie Wong, San Francisco District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee and a representative from Assemblyman Phil Ting's office.

Yang, a kinesiology major, served in the U.S. Navy from 2002-2005 and transferred to SF State in the fall of 2011. As president of VETS@SFSU, he has increased membership, partnered with other SF State as well as off-campus organizations and overseen the planning of events such as a family retreat and fundraising for an after school program in San Francisco's Sunset District.

"I was excited, and surprised, to receive the scholarship," said Yang, who received a non-combat injury during his service. "Being a disabled vet, it's hard to find work outside school, so the extra income will make a big difference."

A photo of Alex Lazar, a representative from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's office, presenting the 2013 Nancy Pelosi Scholarship to VETS@SFSU President Ben Yang.

Alex Lazar, a representative from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's office, presents VETS@SFSU President Ben Yang with the 2013 Nancy Pelosi Scholarship.

The support offered through VETS@SFSU and the VETS Corner is crucial for student veterans, who face different challenges than other students, Yang said. Many are older and have families, or feel they have no one with whom to talk about their experiences in the military.

"It's hard being a student veteran," he said. "My main goal is to get more veterans involved with our organization and let them know that we are here for them, we can help them make the transition from military life to civilian life. Hanging out with other veterans, on campus or off campus, can help."

The Nancy Pelosi Scholarship was named in honor of Pelosi, a longtime friend and supporter of SF State. As speaker of the House, Pelosi championed the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which provides financial support for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to earn college degrees. The Pelosi Scholarship Program for National Service supplements GI Bill benefits.

There are currently 430 veterans and 450 dependents of veterans enrolled in classes at SF State. The University's support of veterans includes the Veterans Services Center, the VETS Corner and other resources that provide mentorship, career counseling, benefits assistance and more.

For more information about veteran services at SF State, visit

-- Jonathan Morales