Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Jake Gramstorff represents UMass veterans with firsthand experience

‘I’m pretty familiar with the community and what they go through’

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Jake Gramstorff represents UMass veterans with firsthand experience

(photo courtesy of UMass Amherst's official facebook page)

(photo courtesy of UMass Amherst's official facebook page)

(photo courtesy of UMass Amherst's official facebook page)

(photo courtesy of UMass Amherst's official facebook page)

By Will Katcher, Assistant Photo Editor

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As the student government association’s secretary of veterans affairs, and as a member of the Army National Guard and Reserve Officers Training Corp, Jake Gramstorff has created a unique connection between his work and those he represents.

With a foot in each world, Gramstorff, a sophomore kinesiology major at the University of Massachusetts, has the ability to see exactly how his representation affects veterans on campus; a group of a few hundred that can face a variety of challenges other students do not experience.

“I’m pretty familiar with the community and what they go through,” Gramstorff said.

From making sure the process of receiving GI Bill funds goes smoothly, to helping them find affordable parking on campus, Gramstorff is the advocate for UMass’ service members and veterans.

His job is noticeably different than those of some of his SGA colleagues. “It’s a very unique position in the SGA because it’s less political,” he said. “It’s more active, I think, and it doesn’t do the typical things that an SGA member does.”

Instead of crafting policy, much of Gramstorff’s job involves connecting with service members in the Student Veteran Resource Center, located in the basement of Dickinson Hall. While they work on homework or watch TV, he gets to know them, and is there to hear any issues they may come across, which often involve navigating the bureaucracy of a large public school or finding the proper support services.

“I’m like a liaison between the SGA and the Veteran Center,” he said. Should veterans have a need within the school or want a policy implemented through the SGA, that’s where Gramstorff would come in.

The role is natural for him, given his experience in both ROTC and the National Guard, and the fact that he has been a member of student government since high school.

Nearly every day, he trains with his fellow ROTC members, and once a month, he spends a weekend training with the National Guard. Gramstorff is also a fourth-generation service member and is the son of an Army colonel who has been deployed twice since 9/11.

For Gramstorff, his role in student government is personal. Last semester, when Timmy Sullivan and Nathalie Amazan were elected SGA president and vice president, Gramstorff noticed that they were hiring a of Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Wanting to help his community, he applied and was hired.

Along with Gramstorff, UMass also looks to provide help for students who have served. According to UMass Veteran Services, “UMass Amherst is committed to offering quality services and support programs for student veterans, active military and their families.”

The Office of the Bursar at UMass offers aid to service members through the Veteran’s Affairs Educational Benefit Programs, such as the post-9/11 GI bill, which can provide “anywhere from [40 to 100 percent] of the In-State mandatory tuition and fees directly to the University,” depending on the length of service.

Gramstorff hasn’t been on the job for long and is conscious of the fact that he hasn’t spearheaded new policy initiatives yet. “But I’m hoping that’s to come,” he said.

“To have the opportunity to give this group of students sort of a voice and a representation in the government of their school, I like that,” he said.

 

Will Katcher can be reached at [email protected]

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