Aurora Board Awards Grants to West Virginia University and Moraine Valley Community College

On October 27th, the Aurora Board of Directors approved two grants: the first to fund a student peer advisor program at MVCC and the second to continue our tradition of supporting Green Zone Programs at West Virginia University.  The Aurora Foundation has provided over 25 grants to Universities nationwide to support veteran student retention in schools and to assist post-graduation employment via paid internships.

Ms. Cynthia Roth of the West Virginia University Foundation, explained that the money would be used to support the Green Zone Program at West Virginia University by preparing faculty and staff to better serve student veterans on campus through dialogue and community building sessions. Each session combines the descriptions of existing research on signature wounds like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury with student-veteran stories of their own experiences. Through this dialogue, faculty and staff gain insight into the issues involving veteran-student retention.

The MVCC grant will be used to implement the Peer Mentoring for College Transition (PMCT) program to support student veterans at the beginning of their academic journey. “We expect the PMCT Pilot to have a significant positive impact on veteran student outcomes that will support the college’s continuation of the program”, Dr. Jenkins, Dean of Student success stated. The peer advising program will address the academic and social needs of participants through tutoring and mentoring initiatives. Veterans-only tutoring will address low completion rates among first year student veterans while the mentor-ship component of the program will respond to the social isolation that new student veterans often feel on campus.

Tom DeWitt, Aurora's Chairman of the Board, passed along his congratulations to these two schools. “I am extremely pleased with the grant applications we’ve received from schools across the country.  There is incredible work being done on campuses to help our student Veterans graduate and transition into the workforce. We at Aurora are proud to support these efforts!”


Aurora Board Awards Two New Grants

On November 18th, the Aurora Board of Directors approved two grants to fund faculty training programs at two new universities. These grants make Armstrong State University of Savannah, GA, and Austin Peay State University of Clarksville, TN the 19th and 20th grants awarded to higher education, respectively.

Phil Gore, the Military Education Coordinator at Armstrong State University, explained that the money would be used to support the Green Zone Program at Armstrong State University by helping to train even more faculty and staff. The school, which is home to over 1,100 students receiving VA benefits, is no stranger to Aurora. In 2014, GPB Media's Emily Jones interviewed Aurora's Director of Communications, Ms. Beth Miller-Herholtz, and noted that Armstrong State University was interested in the Green Zone Program (the interview can be heard here .) With the Aurora grant, the questions and topics raised in the radio interview over a year ago seem to come full circle for Armstrong State University.


Our 20th grant went to Austin Peay State University - the first Aurora grant to be awarded a grant in the state of Tennessee. The grant will also go towards the creation of a Green Zone, helping over 1,000 faculty and staff members learn how to best relate to the growing numbers of student veterans on campus, which makes up over 25% of the school's population.

On behalf of Tom DeWitt, Aurora's Chairman of the Board, congratulations to these two schools! We're looking forward to learning how Aurora dollars will impact the lives of student veterans on these campuses.

Welcome to 2015 - Going Where The Jobs Are!

It's a New Year, and we've seen the lives of countless veterans change for the better since 2008.  But we're not satisfied with business as usual - we are looking ahead this year to further the horizons of veterans all across the country!

Being a part of the Aurora Foundation is not simply about giving grants to schools and interns, but about meeting needs and building relationships.  We've met needs in many different industries so far, and built strong relationships with both schools and companies. These veteran-friendly organizations go out of their way to train and connect vets with jobs and other contacts upon graduation.  We've worked individually with interns who desire to hone a specific skill set, and have not only seen them through a successful internship, but walked with them through finding full-time work and other significant milestones! It's a privilege to meet their needs, and be a small part of veterans' journeys. 

This year, we've noticed a different need in our workforce, and therefore want to expand our reach.  We've given grants to four-year colleges and universities, as well as two community colleges, and now in 2015, we're looking to the trades. 

Often trades jobs are both high-paying and readily available, yet have the fewest qualified applicants.  If Aurora can fund the school grants, apprenticeships, and internships that qualify veterans to fill these jobs, we want to do it!

Upon completion of military service, many men and women may not necessarily feel the pull to obtain a degree, but desire to put their military skills to work in the trades - this includes mechanics, manufacturing, welding, electricians - even certain technology jobs only require certifications.  There is a need among companies to fill these types of positions, so here we are.  We want to build relationships with the colleges already involved in workforce development throughout their communities!  We want a hand in helping veterans get the skills and work experience they need to start the jobs of tradesmen and tradeswomen - the jobs that have been and always will be the invaluable backbone of the American economy. 

This by no means is a post stating that we are backing away from the types of internships we've funded in the past - on the contrary.  If you search our "Internship" Page, you'll find open positions for business interns, law interns, engineering interns, even interns with a background in international relations.  But we want to start branching into new territory.  We want to be where the open jobs are, and do our part to help veterans qualify for those open jobs. 

So trade schools?  Please consider applying for a grant for your veteran students.  Industry?  Please explore how we can help you pay a veteran his/her wages while he/she interns or apprentices with you.  We look forward to partnering with new friends as we continue to invest in the lives of veterans - let's talk!

Aurora and NASA Congratulate Navy Veteran Wade Hunter, Student Vet and Intern

The Aurora Foundation is pleased to congratulate Wade Hunter, a Navy Nuclear Electronics Technician veteran and student at Old Dominion University. He is studying for a double Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering. Wade is the first intern under the newly established Aurora Chair internship with NASA Langley, where he was mentored by Steven D. Harrah. Wade supported a large digitization project in the Research Division, Electromagnetics and Sensors, Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.

As is customary with all Aurora interns, Wade provided a final presentation that summarized his experience. In addition to explaining the project and the decision factors involved in selecting the methods used for digitization, Wade also described his take aways from working with Aurora's mentor, Reggie Williams (former Army Command Sergeant Major). Together, they worked through the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, taking one habit per week during the course of the internship. Wade commented that the Habits were meaningful in both his professional and personal life. Beginning with the End in Mind and Putting First Things First helped him establish clear paths to meet his project objectives; and Thinking Win Win and Seeking First to Understand Before Being Understood have already made a positive to impact at home with his fiance!

Presenting him with Aurora's Certification of Completion was the Foundation's Chairman, Tom DeWitt. Tom also recognized Debbie Murray, LARSS Program Coordinator, and Mary Sandy, Director, Virginia Space Grant Program (VSGP). Putting another Covey Habit to work -- Synergize -- Aurora, NASA, LARSS, and the VSGP have combined resources and created new avenues for student veterans to obtain the practical and applied training needed to not only graduate from college, but also to secure full-time employment.

On behalf of everyone, congratulations Wade! We are pleased to have joined you on this journey, "From Boots to Books to Business."  We hope you enjoy the photos from the presentation!

Find out more about these programs using these links:

 Wade Hunter accepting his Certificate of Completion from Aurora's Chairman, Tom DeWitt

Wade Hunter accepting his Certificate of Completion from Aurora's Chairman, Tom DeWitt

Aurora and Longwood University Congratulate Bonita Earls, Navy Veteran and Successful Intern

The Aurora Foundation is pleased to congratulate Bonita Earls on her successful internship with the Longwood Real Estate Foundation. Bonita is a double major at Longwood University's College of Business and Economics, taking on Finance and Real Estate degrees. During her final presentation to the Foundation's officers, Bonita outlined how her experience with the Navy, especially her focus on meeting deadlines and looking for efficiencies on each task, helped her consistently meet requirements.

Joining her for the presentation was her husband Chris, also a Navy veteran, and a strong supporter of her goals. It was clear that Bonita and Chris make a great team! Presenting her with her certificate was the Foundation's Chairman, Tom DeWitt, along with Aurora's Internship Mentor, Reggie Williams. Please enjoy the photos from the presentation by clicking here.

 Aurora Chairman, Tom DeWitt with Navy Veteran and Longwood University student and intern Bonita Earls and Aurora's Intern Mentor, Reggie Williams 

Aurora Chairman, Tom DeWitt with Navy Veteran and Longwood University student and intern Bonita Earls and Aurora's Intern Mentor, Reggie Williams 

Aurora and Washington Scholars Fellowship Program Congratulate Two Veteran Interns

It has become an Aurora tradition -- celebrating with the Washington Scholars Fellowship program at the Capital Hill Club in August! We are happy to congratulate Nathan Richardson and Mike Nerstheimer, both veterans and both interns under the Aurora Chair. Both are first year law at George Washington University as well as the first recipients of the joint Flag and General Officers' Network Admiral McGrail Scholarships. 

Nathan Richardson interned under mentor Samuel Wright, CAPT, USN (Ret) at the Reserve Officers Association of the United States, which as a client base of approximately 60,000 veterans, reservists, and active military members. He put his legal research and writing skills immediately to work supporting client inquiries and projects that spanned issues under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), rights to military and non-military retirement systems, military divorce cases, and voting rights. He even researched one case where a non-member inquired about the possibility to manufacture and sell replica Congressional Medals of Honor, which Nathan confirmed, is quite illegal.

Nathan also authored and co-authored twenty articles for the law center's database. One in particular addressed the gap in re-employment rights for National Guard members.  In his final report, which is a requirement for all Washington Scholars and Aurora Interns, Nathan stated that his experience "has been overwhelmingly positive" and provided a chance to put the "lessons learned in his first year law school to real world problems."  

Michael Nerstheimer served as the Law of War intern for The Honorable Evan J. Wallach of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  Judge Wallach is an acknowledged expert in the field of military law.  Michael conducted legal research that will be used for an article of publication in a law journal and in the writing of a book. His researched focused on identifying records of U.S. military Courts Martials, Commissions, and Councils of War in which non-military personnel were tried. He spent many hours in the National Archives, reading records from the War of 1812 and Mexican-American War through the Civil War.

Additionally, Michael supported Judge Wallach and his caseload that pertained to the adjudication of veterans' appeals of rulings by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Boards of Veterans' Appeals and the subsequent reviews of those rulings by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Working with Judge Wallach's four law clerks in this area, Michael gained valuable experience in this area. Since he was also taking Administrative Law during the summer, the experience derived through his internship was well aligned with his course load. 

Both Nathan and Michael commented about the benefits of the Washington Scholars Fellowship Program. Many networking events are held and span topics from leadership to public relations. A key focus is placed on building professional networks and relationships that last a lifetime, and many alumni of the WSFP were on hand to congratulate the new graduates. In fact, several who interned under the Aurora Chair, like Jaimie Clark (class of 2013) came by to especially meet Nathan and Michael and extend a warm handshake to his fellow military cohorts.

Aurora Chairman, Tom DeWitt, and Aurora Director of Communications (and volunteer) Beth Miller-Herholtz were on hand to greet them and their spouses as they accepted their diploma from WSF Executive Director Matt Carnovale and MacLane Key, Chairman of Future Leaders of America Foundation. Please enjoy the photos of the evening on Aurora's Flickr page.

 Michael Nerstheimer, Law Student at George Washington University; Tom DeWitt, Aurora Chairman; Nathan RIchardson, Law Student at George Washington University 

Michael Nerstheimer, Law Student at George Washington University; Tom DeWitt, Aurora Chairman; Nathan RIchardson, Law Student at George Washington University 

Second Student Vet Completes Troutman Sanders Internship

In June, The Aurora Foundation celebrated the graduation of it's second student veteran intern from the law offices of Troutman Sanders.  For the second year in a row, a William & Mary Law Student has been welcomed into the firm's Virginia Beach offices to learn and grow in his prospective field.

Josh, a NCO from the USMC, is expecting to complete his J.D. from W&M in May of 2016.  As a first-year law student, this internship was just the right experience he needed to help get ahead.  "This was an absolutely fantastic opportunity. The contacts I made here are some of the biggest names in the region, and I have never had this kind of opportunity before."

Mike Gardner, a Coast Guard veteran himself, was Josh's Troutman Sanders supervisor, and noted that he is continually impressed with the young talent being brought to his firm from the Aurora Foundation. 

Aurora is pleased to not only continue this partnership with Troutman Sanders, but also to impact the lives of veterans and their families, such as Josh Johnson.  He noted that "the contacts I made are some of the biggest names I the region, and I have never had this kind of opportunity before."

Admiral Carey Foundation's Endowment to Aurora

Thomas DeWitt, Chairman of The Aurora Foundation, and Rear Admiral [Ret.] James J. Carey, Chairman of the Admiral James J. Carey Foundation, Inc. [AJJCF] have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for an annual endowment to the Aurora Foundation Military Veterans Youth Leadership Programs.  Aurora will use the funding to support these programs in their goal: to provide the nation with a base of military leaders who seek lifetime service to America in both national and international public policy.  

The endowment will further support a broad range of military veteran internship and fellowships maintained through strategic partnerships between Aurora, AJJCF, the Washington Scholars Fellowship Programs, and the Admiral McGrail Scholars Program sponsored by THE FLAG & GENERAL OFFICERS' NETWORK. This includes the new joint program for military veterans at the George Washington University Law School. 

 "AJJCF has long been a strong supporter of Aurora,” says Admiral Carey, “The organization has an outstanding track record in developing military veterans to be our ‘best and brightest’ future leaders. We’re happy that we can offer an annual, on-going endowment that will support Aurora programs for years to come.”

 Aurora was established in 2008 in order to help veterans successfully graduate from institutions of higher learning and enter the workforce. Programs and partnerships are all structured under a transition called “Boots to Books to Business.”

 "This is a wonderful endowment commitment by AJJCF and a win-win for everyone,” says DeWitt. “The net result will be a better, more productive future for some of America's military veterans. Aurora and AJJCF have accomplished a great deal together over the past several years, and we look forward to accomplishing much more."

 About The Aurora Foundation.  Aurora is a 501.c.3 that issues grants dedicated to creating a campus environment where veterans can succeed, where they have a higher chance of graduating, and ultimately, entering the workforce.  To date, Aurora supports schools from coast to coast, touching the lives of over 19,000 student veterans.  Additionally, Aurora funds internships across a wide range of industries, such as federal contractors, banking, small business, law, hospitality, national security, and all levels of government.  These positions provide student veterans with the experience and networking opportunities needed to successfully gain employment after graduation. Aurora’s internship program is made possible through its strategic partnership with the Admiral Carey Foundation and several parallel organizations.

 About The Admiral Carey FoundationAJJCF is a 501.c.3 education and charitable organization focused on youth leadership training and development with a view to ensuring America has a ready resource of trained future leaders to serve in the fields of national and international public policy.

To read the full Press Release, please click here.

K.N. Barrett Completes Washington Scholars Program at Reserve Officers Association

On Friday, December 13th, K.N. Barrett will complete his internship with the Washington Scholars, and will become thte 27th student veteran intern funded by the Aurora Foundation. 

As a First Lieutenant in the Marine Corps, he is currently on academic leave for the purposes of completing his law degree.  He will return to the Marine Corps to complete a term as Staff Judge Advocate, a role that works with the Judge Advocate General, or JAG. 

K.N. completed his J.D. at William & Mary's Law School in May 2013, and began his internship with the Washington Scholars in the Fall of 2013.  He worked with the Reserve Officers Association in Washington, DC.  During his time at the ROA, he helped veterans and service members who called or emailed the center and sought council on the law addressing their various needs.  In one particular case, he helped a Vietnam veteran understand the legal process for filing VA claims.

 RADM Carey, Founder of the Washington Scholars, and K.N. Barrett, USMC and intern with Reserve Officers Association.

RADM Carey, Founder of the Washington Scholars, and K.N. Barrett, USMC and intern with Reserve Officers Association.

He also wrote extensively for the ROA's Law Review section on their website.  His articles helped veterans better understand the law and steps they could take to move forward with the VA in processing their claims.  He has helped many veterans through his time at the ROA, and even in free time there, helped veterans one-on-one with research and answering any questions they might have.

Aurora is pleased to fund internships such as these, and thankful for the service and the dedication of K.N. Barrett.  Congratulations to First Lieutenant Barrett on a job well done! 

Challenges Faced by Student Veterans - Part Five

On this final installment of "Challenges Faced by Student Veterans," we'd like to first thank Alison Lighthall for her article "Ten Things You Should Know About Today's Student Veteran."  This is an article full of information based on her research as well as personal experience moving from the military world to the classroom.

As you might know, Aurora has given seven grants to schools to create something called the "Green Zone" Program.  This program establishes a faculty / staff training program in which the school's employees to learn more about their student veterans and how they are adapting to life on campus.  As her sixth point in her article, Lighthall lists some of the comments she's heard before from student peers, as well as faculty members that single out student veterans in the classroom.  These comments can, as she puts it, "do more than upset veterans; they wound the hearts of men and women who are already overburdened with sorrow. For this reason, I believe faculty’s opinions about the military or recent wars are best kept out of the classroom."

With Green Zone training, professors can best know what to say / not to say, and how to help navigate other students' discussions when situations like this arise.  There may also be times when veterans' needs differ from other students, and professors are taught to identify these times and build an understanding environment for their student veterans.  Different needs include: going to the doctor or visiting the VA; experiencing a slower start from an injury; having to have things repeated before fully understanding (side effect of a TBI or PTSD); wanting to sit alone & away from the group; coming in early and finding their own desk in the classroom where they feel most comfortable... and the list goes on.  But for these and many other reasons, the Green Zone Program exists to help faculty make this transition for veterans the best and most seamless it can be. 

Veterans are also given a way of identifying which faculty members have gone through this training.  They can then choose to take classes from a Green Zone professor verses one who has not gone through training.  Faculty and staff are given a badge to put on their door, and the school will usually mark in the class catalog which professors have completed Green Zone training.

Aurora is proud to have helped grow the Green Zone Program across several different states, and hopes to see it continue to expand for the sake of student veterans.  They deserve the best conditions upon going back to school, and our hope is that  we'll see them not only thrive in the classroom, but in the workforce as well.