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Green Zone program helps student veterans

The Green Zone (GZ) spaces are marked with stickers indicating a faculty or staff member has been trained to assist student veterans or act as a resource for the UNG community.

After serving for five active years in the U.S. Army, Magnum Brock said enrolling at the University of North Georgia (UNG) was a struggle. But once he saw the "Green Zone" signs plastered on doors of faculty and staff members on campus, Brock felt relieved.

"My initial thought was, 'My process just got a lot easier,'" said the 29-year-old from Gainesville, Georgia.

Brock explained veterans recognize a Green Zone as a high-security area for military forces to gather safely. For UNG, it serves a similar purpose.

"Green Zones are safe places where our students who are veterans or on active duty can go and talk openly and be themselves," said Christy Orr, assistant director of Nighthawk Engagement and Student Transitions (NEST).

The Green Zone (GZ) spaces are marked with stickers indicating a faculty or staff member has been trained to assist student veterans or act as a resource for the UNG community. Brock said the program works.

"Because of the obstacles and struggles that veterans have faced, we are relieved to know there are faculty and staff who understand and sympathize," said the senior pursuing a degree in studio art with a concentration in painting. "From the testimonies I have heard, the Green Zone program is instrumental. Many of us would not be where we are without it."

An estimated 500 UNG students are identified as veterans. Nearly 200 faculty and staff are Green Zone-certified. Nearly 60 more will become certified through the first virtual Green Zone training from noon to 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16, on Zoom.

While in-person training averages 20 participants, Orr was surprised when registrants for the virtual session reached 50 and continued to rise.

"I thought people would be tired of being online," she said, adding the session was capped at 60.

Now, she and her staff plan to offer another session next month.

"This shows our faculty and staff are interested in learning how to better serve our active military service men and women and our veterans," Orr said.

She developed the program when the student veteran population increased at UNG.

"Some faculty didn't know why some students asked to be excused from class once a month for weekend service. Some didn't understand why they didn't want to be identified as veterans," she said. "Our faculty needed training on how to work with these students one-on-one."

A panel of active-duty members and veterans who are students and UNG staff will lead the training. Small breakout sessions will discuss different scenarios. A discussion will also allow participates to ask questions.

Once training is complete, faculty and staff will know how to provide supportive services to ensure veteran students are successful in their academic pursuits, as well as how to help them adjust to the campus environment and transition to civilian employment.

Brock said the Green Zone program has made the difference to him and many others.

"I have a comfortable entrance into college life because of the Green Zone," he said. "Over the course of my college career, I had excellent experience because of my immersion in NEST and the connection to Green Zone."

For more information, visit the Green Zone webpage.

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