Veteran of success

Armondo Escalanti 225x150
Armondo Escalanti guides fellow student veterans.

After six tours aboard aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea, Armondo Escalanti, a senior criminology and criminal justice major, came to Northern Arizona University to complete his education. However, the 14-year veteran of the U.S. Navy found himself facing unique challenges as he transferred from military life to academia

“Veterans have a lot of life experience, but finding people to relate to - to just talk to - I think is the biggest obstacle that veterans face.”

That’s why, through his roles as a Veteran Peer Mentor and the president of the NAU Student Veterans of America (SVA), Escalanti works to ensure that veterans and their families have access to the resources they need, and truly feel at home at the university.

Helping fellow veterans

Escalanti explains that his motivation for helping fellow veterans succeed and transition smoothly stem from his own experiences and difficulties.

“When I first came to NAU, one of my instructors was an Army vet himself, so he took me under his wing and showed me the ropes,” Escalanti says. “This made a huge difference for me.” 

Unfortunately, the transition isn’t always so easy. That’s where Escalanti’s work comes in. As a Veteran Peer Mentor, Escalanti works directly with new student veterans to give them advice and direct them to helpful resources, like the Office of Military and Student Affairs.

“Veteran Peer Mentors are another tool that you have, another person you can go to for pretty much anything that you need as far as going to school here,” he says.

Not to be content with helping student veterans in only one capacity, Escalanti’s role as president of the NAU chapter of the SVA is another facet of support. Here, he helps organize events to encourage interaction and friendships among NAU’s veterans.

“Last semester we organized an event at the NAU challenge course, and we do a lot of other leisure things like bowling,” Escalanti says.

Chapter of the month

The NAU SVA chapter isn’t just fun and games though. Under Escalanti’s leadership, the chapter was recently awarded the Chapter of the Month distinction out of more than 950 chapters across the United States. Escalanti credits the work being done by his chapter to reach out to Native American veterans as a factor leading to the recognition.

“We’ve been advocating for Native American veterans, and the reservation is our neighbor,” he says. “As a Native American myself, and I’ve been voicing my opinion on how Native Americans are not being reached as far as veterans go. It’s been a really positive experience.”