Lone Star College-Montgomery entered an interlocal agreement with the University of Michigan to test a new Peer Advising for Veterans' Education Program, or PAVE. The Lone Star College System board of trustees approved implementation of the program at a board meeting Feb. 2.

According to the agenda packet, the University of Michigan will provide a web-based platform for training peer advisors and a management console for each partner campus to match student veterans and peer advisors.

Matthew Samford, director of advising and counseling at LSC-Montgomery, the campus staff believe the program has value for its students.

"[We saw] that it could potentially benefit our veteran students by building solid peer connections at the entry to college and throughout," he said in an email. "LSC-Montgomery was interviewed by the program representatives. We feel that the PAVE representatives found Lone Star College-Montgomery to be a valued institution to participate in this grant program."

Samford said this semester LSC-Montgomery has more than 250 students who receive veteran benefits.

"There’s always a need when it relates to student success—whatever the student population," he said. "With veteran students specifically, however, it is crucial to assist them in not only getting them acclimated to the college environment but helping them to build a community within the college. Doing so—and doing [so] quickly upon admissions—is an important feature in helping them to experience success."

The PAVE program will assist in getting veteran students connected with peer mentors with similar experiences. According to the abstract study by the University of Michigan, peer support programs can help by providing an established community of other student veterans who can normalize transition experiences, offer social support, reduce stigma associated with help-seeking and connect to useful services on and off campus.

Samford said peer mentors should be veterans who are eligible for either the financial aid work study or VA student worker programs on campus. Mentors must also have a year’s worth of successful college experience.

President of LSC-Montgomery Rebecca Riley said there is research pointing to the benefits of peer support in the academic success of veterans attending college.

"The PAVE program extends the experience of relying on and supporting fellow service members during active duty, facilitating relationships with fellow veterans who understand both the strengths they bring and challenges these students experience in college life," she said. "Lone Star College-Montgomery is proud to have so many veterans at the college, and we look forward to providing even greater support to them."

Riley said the first wave of mentors will begin training this semester. The program is scheduled to start tentatively by summer.