Texas A&M student Ashlyn Sharp was called to duty by Texas Air National Guard due to the pandemic.
On the order of President Donald Trump, more than 20 Texas A&M University students who are part of the National Guard and reserve component units are reporting for duty to support the COVID-19 relief efforts across the country. Texas A&M is responding by providing the required academic and financial accommodations to these students.
To provide full-time support to other military units and first responders, these students may need to withdraw from all coursework and be expected to pack up and relocate to another part of the state or country. This creates numerous challenges, such as paying back student loans and postponing graduation. In addition, not being able to stay home may cause increased risk for exposure to coronavirus.
“This pandemic has created a stressful situation, but I am committed to serve my community and country and want to give back,” said Ashlyn Sharp, a Texas A&M student veteran and Texas Air National Guard member. “While it may be hard to juggle school and working full-time for the Air Force for the COVID-19 response in Texas, I am prepared to do what has to be done. This is the type of scenario I signed up for and have trained for in the Texas Air National Guard. People are struggling and getting very sick, and I just want to help as much as I can.”
The Veterans Resource and Support Center (VRSC) in the Division of Student Affairs has assembled a working group at Texas A&M comprised of representatives from 13 campus departments that stay abreast of relief effort activation information, maintain activation numbers, and continuously evaluate how Texas A&M can best support and assist students throughout activation.
The working group is asking Texas A&M faculty and staff who encounter activated students to keep in mind that each student’s activation is different.
“It’s important to remember their status and ability to remain enrolled may be different depending on an individual’s circumstances, such as the type of orders they received, their service branch, military educational benefits, and family considerations,” said Col. Jerry Smith, USMC (Ret.) and director of the VRSC. “And because of the emergency nature of COVID-19 relief efforts, some students may not receive official orders prior to activation. Listening carefully so that you clearly understand each student’s needs and challenges will be key to your ability to provide the support they need.”
The units collaborating in the working group include:
- The Office of the Registrar
- Veteran Services Office (in Scholarships & Financial Aid)
- Military Admissions
- Student Assistance Services
- Offices of the Dean of Student Life
- Student Business Services
- Office of the Commandant
- Office for Student Success
- Office of Graduate and Professional Studies
- University Advisors and Counselors
- Army ROTC
- Texas A&M University at Galveston
The working group has sent detailed emails providing resource and contact information regarding the various concerns of students who have been activated, and a list of resources and contacts is available on the VRSC’s website. Without knowing how many additional Texas A&M students may be activated in the future, VRSC officials said they stand ready to provide proactive support to each student.
“This special student population is under an immense amount of stress with a laundry list of educational responsibilities and concerns, but they are proud and ready to serve,” Smith said. “Texas A&M is proud of our military students and student veterans and their dedication to the Aggie core value of selfless service. It is our honor and responsibility to assist them with seamless transition support during this challenging and uncertain time.”