U.S. Army Veteran and SUNY Canton student Randyl S. Chase in the college's Veterans Lounge and Battle Buddy Center.
CANTON -- SUNY Canton senior Randyl S. Chase said he didn't know if he'd be able to attend college without the support and camaraderie he found in the Raymond G. Modell Veterans Lounge.
After being deployed twice, and sustaining a career-changing back injury, the Lyons native decided to continue his education to become a social worker.
"I retired from the Army in November 2015, and started school in January 2016," Chase said. "I didn't have much time for a personal transition."
Like many other student veterans, Chase describes himself as an atypical learner. In addition to taking classes full time, he is married, has a family, and works at Transitional Living Services. While this is not uncommon for the college to see non-traditional students, Chase said he found it difficult to connect with students who were fresh out of high school until he found solace among his peers who had served.
"I immediately made connections with the other veterans on campus and in the community," Chase said. "Once I joined the Veterans Association, I found it a lot easier to make friends at college."
In April 2016, New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc. (NYSID) gave the college $10,000 to help make the Veterans Lounge a Battle Buddy Center. This funding allowed for the purchase of new furniture and six computer terminals where students could complete their work in a quiet environment. "It's a really nice setup," Chase said.
He is able to complete the majority of his work in the Veterans Lounge, without it cutting into his home or work life. The space, which is reserved for veterans and dependents of veterans, sees about a dozen people daily. "There are four of us now that are all in Applied psychology and we all work together," he said.
NYSID's 14 Battle Buddy Centers have collectively hosted more than 70,000 visits by veterans since September 2011. They are made possible through grant funding and support from member agencies. "Based upon the current veteran population and the anticipated growth of veterans' programs and services, NYSID is pleased to continue its partnership with SUNY Canton and St. Lawrence NYSARC in support of the college's Battle Buddy Center," said Ronald P. Romano, NYSID President and CEO.
Chase is the current president of the Veterans Association. He and his colleagues are preparing to celebrate Veterans Day with their respective communities. He's actively involved in the Canton Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1231. The student veterans will also be participating in an on-campus luminary vigil scheduled for at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, on the turf field or inside the Roos House Convocation Athletic and Recreation Center.
The college recently renamed its Veterans Lounge to honor Modell, a longstanding donor and U.S. Air Force Veteran who graduated in 1962.