Hiram – Recently, on a brisk winter afternoon, Hiram College unveiled the Homefront Education Ready Op (HERO) Program at the Freedom Center; the first on-campus housing dedicated to veterans in the Midwest. Hiram College President Thomas Chema acknowledged, “We, as a country, are so fortunate to have these dedicated men and women.” Chema continued, “We, as a college, seek to provide the exact kind of environment that our veterans need to launch themselves into the next phase of their lives.” To that end, Hiram College partnered with the Patriot Development Group, located in Bratenahl. Patriot Development is on a mission to assist servicemen and women as they transition from military service to careers in the private sector.
According to Patriot’s President, Hiram DeJesus, the HERO program was inspired by actions specified in the “Sea of Goodwill” document issued by the former Joint Chiefs Chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen. The document outlines three key elements in helping veterans and their families reintegrate into civilian society: education, access to health care for life, and employment. The program at Hiram College is designed to help veterans achieve the first key element. Based on the success of the initial program, future plans could include construction of condominiums for veterans with families, also on Hiram’s campus.
Phase One of the HERO Program began with the renovation and re-dedication of The Henry Family Freedom Hall on the Hiram College campus. Phase One renovations, which include the first 22 private rooms, are completed and ready to house student veterans attending Hiram under the post-9/11GI Bill. Renovations on the third floor, which contains an additional 22 private rooms, will be completed later this semester.
Officials from across Ohio gave remarks at the dedication, including state auditor Dave Yost, who commented, “The great thing about this hall is not just the leg up on university life that it gives our veterans,” Yost continued, “It’s a place where they’ll be able to help each other with their studies, a place where they’ll be able to feel like they fit in.” Yost applauded veterans for their service, and credited the program at Hiram’s Freedom Center as one way to help them begin their civilian lives again.
Other notable officials in attendance included Eli Faes, Legislative and Public Affairs Director of the Ohio Board of Regents; Jason Dominguez, Assistant Director and Chief of Staff of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, and Amber Moore, of Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office.
“Our goal is to provide the best environment for the successful transition from the military back into civilian life,” beamed Hiram DeJesus. President Chema concurred, adding, “We will welcome these people who’ve put themselves in harm’s way. We will welcome them into our community and know that they will add much to our little academic village.”
In order to help launch the initiative, Hiram College will provide the first two months of housing at no charge for the first 20 veterans who sign up for the program. For more information on the Freedom Center program, call (330) 569-5288.