Former homeless student veteran appreciates new partnership helping student vets

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News 12 This Morning/Friday March 21, 2014

(WRDW) -- Many are celebrating as four powerhouses come together to help student veterans get back into the workforce.

Aiken Technical College, University of South Carolina Aiken, the Aiken Augusta Warrior project and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions are creating a career pathway for veterans called the Veterans to Careers initiative.

"It's a step closer to success for more veterans than just a little bit," said Steven Waller, a student at Aiken Tech and founder and president of the school's Student Veteran Association.

A native of Aiken, Waller served in the Navy for four years.

He tells me when he finished serving he had a hard time transitioning into civilian life.

"I got out and moved down to Florida [and] ended up losing my job due to the recession," he said. "I became homeless."

Waller says he lived on the streets for about a year trying to get work, but hearing the same response.

"Being told that I'm overqualified for a job, many jobs... actually every job that I went to for an interview, every single one of them was 'you're overqualified,'" he said.

He said it all changed when he came back to Aiken and applied for college.

"Going from the streets and not being helped with anything [to] going to Aiken Tech and everything that I've tried to do, I've successfully done because I had nothing but help from Aiken Tech," he said.

The struggles Waller and other student veterans have had is something this partnership hopes to help tackle with the career initiative, by finding part-time job opportunities for student vets in their college major.

"I can't explain enough how much things like this help veterans who you don't even know, you won't even see them," Waller said. "You can get a veteran off the street, you can put food into a veterans mouth with stuff like this."

Students who want to be a part of the program must attend Aiken Tech or USC Aiken for a least one semester full-time and maintain and GPA of at least 2.5.

They'll get connected with part time opportunities where they'll work about 15 to 20 hours a week.

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