Heidelberg University has a new student organization on campus. The Student Military Support Alliance (SMSA) is a group of students working together to navigate military experiences, benefits and events.
The president of the group is Nikolas McAvoy. Nik is in his third year at Heidelberg, on track to graduate early in the spring. He’s majoring in political science and history, with a minor in business. He currently plans to enroll in the PlusOne Advantage® MBA program next year, and maybe pursue law in the future. He’s a defensive lineman on Heidelberg’s football team.
Nik’s dad was a U.S. Marine, and each of his dad’s brothers joined a different branch of the military. The summer before starting at Heidelberg, he decided that he was going to join the military as well. “I started calling up recruiters,” he joked, “asking can you pay for my school?” So at 17, Nik joined the Ohio National Guard. He completed his freshman year, then took time during his sophomore year to complete the nine months of training. Now, he spends a weekend a month, and a few weeks each summer at drill.
Originally, Nik didn’t want to be the president of any group. The idea for the club started when Nik was talking with Dr. Carole Thomas, director of Career and Military Services, about the paperwork troubles that came with having an education paid for by the United States government. “Carole was encouraging me, like get every cent, get the most out of it,” Nik explained, and the exchange sparked a larger conversation about support for Heidelberg students affiliated with the military.
After many more conversations, they had their first meeting on October 25, and their second meeting on November 1. “There’s like 30 people affiliated with the military on campus, and we had a good amount of them show up last night to the meeting,” Nik said. The big topic of conversation was the upcoming Student Senate Veterans Day celebration on November 10, and how to make sure it’s well attended by students and everyone who wants to be involved gets that opportunity. Nik will be speaking at the event, and is looking forward to supporting this campus tradition as a student and member of the National Guard. In the future, although Nik will be graduating, he hopes the group continues to support the Student Senate Veterans Day event.
At this point, the group has a lot of big ideas for how to engage and encourage without digging into too many people’s schedules. “Mostly, I want it to be an affiliation, not an obligation for anybody. I don’t want to say, ‘As your president, you have to go do this.’ But I would like to help with problems, arrange some fun stuff, things like that.” There are talks of a 5K “or something outside” in the spring, or a trip to Camp Perry in Port Clinton to check out the firing range. The group is talking about more flag presentations at home athletics events, and a 9/11 tribute in 2024. And, of course, they’ll be helping their members – or anyone who needs it – navigate financial aid paperwork.
“The group is open to anyone,” Nik said, “if you’re affiliated through your own work, your parents, or you just want to join.”
This group is equal parts support, duty, and fun. So, if you need support or want to support this new club, be sure to stop by Campus Center 220 on the first Monday of the month at 19:00 (7 p.m.)!