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Steve Acheson’s address at the Scholars Evening

Steve AchesonGood evening everyone! As Lisa said, my name is Steve Acheson. Before I begin describing my experience as a Student at this University, I’d just like to take a minute to recognize a very important event in American history that has taken place over the past few days. Early last week, it was finally announced that, after 7 long years of fighting, the last remaining Combat troops would be redeploying back to the U.S. from Iraq. As a Veteran of this war myself, it brings me great joy and sense of accomplishment to hear this news. I would just like to remind everyone here tonight that none of the freedoms we enjoy in this country would be possible without the Sacrifices made by our service men and women. Please take the time to thank a Veteran the next time you have the chance, as this small gesture of appreciation goes a lot further than you may think!

When I first began here as a Student back in the Spring of 2009, I was only a couple months removed from Active Duty in the Army. The transition from Soldier to Student was not an easy one to say the least. I think I was more nervous that first day of class, than when I got off the bus and stared into the face of my drill sergeant for the first time at basic training. As a Veteran dealing with the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, more commonly known as PTSD, being crammed into a classroom full of strangers can be quite stressful. The crowded hallways only added to the tension, and at times it would even be difficult for me to have someone walking behind me. I was constantly scanning students for weapons hidden under their clothing as they walked by, and was weary of any behaviors that were threatening, at least to me. Always on high alert, and hyper-defensive, I would immediately head to a desk situated in the very back of the classroom so I could have full-view of the doorway and other students in class.

Steve Acheson at the Scholars Evening

UWFox student Steve Acheson addresses
the UW-Fox Valley Foundation, scholarship
donors and members of the audience at the
Foundation’s annual “Scholars Evening,” held
on August 23, 2010.

The first few days were pretty difficult. Then, I met a couple other Veterans attending classes here, and realized that I wasn’t alone. This is when I decided to organize a group that would quickly become the second largest student organization on campus, the “Veterans Outreach Organization”. Through this student-veteran led organization, we have reached-out to numerous other Veterans in attendance at UW Fox, and have created an environment on campus which assists them in their transition from the battlefield to the classroom. Now, hopefully no Veteran attending this University will feel alienated, or alone, as they pursue their educational goals.

Because of my positive experience with this organization, other doors have opened up for me as well. I was elected by the Student Body as a Senator in the Student Association, where I have served them now for over a year! I was also nominated last year by Staff and Faculty to be a UW Fox Valley Student Ambassador, I plan to be one of the math tutors this upcoming Fall semester, and also work part-time in the Student Services office. I have participated in many public events advocating on behalf of Veterans and this University both on and off-campus, and hope to continue to do so in the future.

The hallways don’t seem so choatic for me anymore, and the students are no longer strangers. I find it easier to sit towards the front in some of my classes as well. I enjoy every minute I spend here at UW Fox, and feel that the daily interactions with my fellow students, faculty, and staff have helped me cope with my PTSD more than just about anything else out there! I feel this University was the perfect place for me to begin my education, and this past Spring I earned my Associates Degree with high Honors.  I wish I could remain here at UW Fox for the rest of my academic career, but unfortunately this is not possible. I do plan to transfer to UW Platteville next year to finish my Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering.

I’d just like to say thank you to all the Faculty, Staff, and Students who have helped make this an enjoyable and unforgettable experience. Lastly, and most importantly, I’d like to say thank you to my wife, Kelly, who has supported, encouraged, and stood by me “through it all”! Thank you, and enjoy the rest of your evening