Student Veterans Association hosts Unity Festival

March 9, 2017

Students flooded Dion Student Center on Saturday, March 4 to play games, throw pies in their friend’s faces, take pictures at the photo booth and lined up for the food trucks outside. This year was the first ever Unity Festival put on by the Saint Michael’s Student Veterans Association (SVA), who worked in conjunction with multiple campus organizations to put on this event.

“We decided we wanted to do something to give back to the campus and bring everyone together,” said Chris Boutin, ’18, vice president of the SVA. “We thought the best way to do this was invite other clubs to do their own events and showcase what they are about to help create more community here on campus.”

Boutin said they weren’t doing this so much as the student veterans, but just a group on campus that wanted to see the community start to heal and connect after a harder than usual last semester. The group came up with the idea to call the event the Unity Festival because they felt unity is a strong part of military life.

“The military is often not the first thing that is thought of when you hear the word unity. However, the military is built on top of the foundation of unity. While I served I knew three Marines who obtained their citizenship while serving. Coming from northern Vermont I was not introduced to differing cultures growing up,” Boutin said. “When I got to boot camp and to my first unit I was living, working, and playing with people from all over the country and world.  Coming to Saint Michael’s College and seeing that this feeling of unity was shaken created a need to address it.”

The SVA approached other clubs to join in the fun. When Active Minds was asked to have a table at the event and Anne Foley, ’17, happily accepted.

“Veterans deal with mental health issues obviously disproportionately to the rest of the population, and it’s a way to get our community aware of that as a joint issue,” Foley said. Active Minds decided their activity would be to make self-care kits, bouncy balls, candy and all.

“We are glad we were able to collaborate with the SA and provide an entire day of events. We were able to give out approximately 400 Saturday Knight Dry tickets during the course of the day. We raised just under $130 for Blue Star Mothers,” Boutin said.

The SVA is made up of students with no military background, people who have had family members serve, ROTC cadets, National Guard members and student veterans. Boutin himself is a veteran who has served in the Marine Corps for five years overseas and in the Vermont National Guard for four.

The Unity Festival was the second major event that the SVA has put on this year; in the fall the club hosted an alumni event for Veteran’s Day. This semester the club is keeping busy surveying and putting together information on how the school could better attract more student veterans, which he advocates are important voices to have on campus.

Boutin grew up in small town Vermont, and says he never really got to understand some things about the world until he traveled through the military. Other veterans he feels are in a similar situation.

“Being able to have the small town view and a little more worldly view,” Boutin said. “That will help make classes more meaningful for everyone.”

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