West Chester, PA
Program Type/Area of Study: Health and Physical Education
Years Served: 8
Tell us about yourself:
Coming from a military family, Erica knew as a little girl that she was destined to serve her country. She enlisted in the U.S. Army upon high school graduation, and spent eight years in active duty. Today, she’s a proud member of the West Chester University community where she is involved with the Adapted Physical Education Lifetime Fitness Activities group and runs the CrossFit and Yoga for disabilities program.
What prompted you to return to school?
“I knew before I left the service I wanted to go back to school. I knew that the military was short term and to be able to pursue a career and my goals I needed an education.”
Why did you choose West Chester University of Pennsylvania?
“West Chester University has a Yellow Ribbon program, which is something that was very important to me. I also knew that it was within easy commuting distance of Philadelphia.”
What has your experience been like as a student?
“I’ve had such a great experience thus far! I am very social and like to be involved in campus life. As far as academia it’s not always easy, but I found that communicating with my professors and visiting their office hours helps. They understand that it’s been a while since I’ve been in school and are very helpful. Same as the military; communication is key.”
What challenges did you have adjusting to campus culture after military life?
“I was very apprehensive about being the ‘old kid’ on campus. I went to the Student Veterans Group, and they made me feel right at home–they were very welcoming. The SVG is where I met my first WCU friends.” Erica was so involved in SVG that she eventually became the president of the group.
Do you believe your military experience has made you a better student?
“The military taught me how to interact and work with people from all walks of life. I am able to receive and give out instruction. My experiences have taught to me to work hard, and always do my best. Anything worth doing is worth doing right and with all your heart. I know that life will knock me down sometimes; with thanks to the military, I am now resilient enough to be able to get back up and keep moving.”
What advice do you have for veterans returning to school?
“You’re going to be surrounded by students who don’t have the life experience we have had, and they don’t understand the camaraderie that we all share. If you go in knowing this then you may not have as much anxiety. I recommend seeking out veteran programs and other veterans. Even some professors who are vets are great to become familiar with.”
“My proudest accomplishment is starting up my own fitness company. Through my experiences in the Army, here at WCU and life in general, I was able to single-handedly start my own gym, building it from the ground up. I have dedicated my life to helping and serving others.” “Being a female veteran, I am proud of my current accomplishments and looking forward to those that are still to come. I hope that I have set an example for others who have dreams like me.”