Each year Student Veterans of America choose an exceptional student Veteran as Student Veteran of the Year. This year, they narrowed it down to ten finalists, announcing the winner at the end of their national conference.

This week, we are spotlighting 7-8 of this year’s finalists, including the person that was awarded Student Veteran of the Year. Tuesday, we spoke to two exceptional Veterans, Aaron and Kirsten. Yesterday, we featured Gretchen and Jessica. Today, we chat with Jessica Kirksey from Our Lady of the Lake University and Luke Opyd from Cornell. Both give us their military stories, serving as chapter leaders, and thoughts on outreach on campus.

Jessica Kirksey is currently a senior and McNair Scholar and HACU scholar from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas. As an underrepresented student, she is majoring in counseling and research psychology. She currently has a 3.8 cumulative GPA and a 4.0 major GPA. She has completed research in her research methods class under the mentorship of Dr. Corey, a neurological psychologist. She also conducted research with the McNair Scholars program under the mentorship of Dr. Villarreal, an anthropologist. She is currently undertaking research for my research practicum under the mentorship of Dr. Bressler, a sociologist.

She is applying to clinical psychology PhD programs for fall 2018. Her research interest include African American Culture, PTSD, Cultural Identity/Race Disparities, Veteran Mental Health, Sexual Trauma, and CBT. In the future, she would like to open an inpatient treatment facility to help sexual assault survivors and combat veterans using alternative means to treatment like dance or art therapy.

Luke Opyd a U.S. Navy Veteran with 8 years of military experience in Aviation Maintenance, Security, and Management. For five years I managed teams, groups, and/or offices consisting of 5 to 40 personnel. Although my time in the military was rewarding, my true passion is advocating for others, and I am currently seeking a career change. I am an observant, effective communicator who knows how to accomplish goals. I know how to lead teams, and have a talent for identifying strengths and weaknesses in teams and individuals. I am a highly motivated individual, and have a charismatic talent for inspiring everyone I work with. Whatever I pursue, my goal is to be the most valuable asset on the team, and to contribute in unique and innovative ways.

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Published on Jan. 11, 2018

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