The Student Veterans Organization at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith was recently recognized as one of the top student veteran groups in the nation during the Student Veterans of America national conference earlier this month in Anaheim, Calif.


The UAFS SVO chapter was named runner-up for Chapter of the Year and placed third in the National Business Plan Competition.


The runner-up recognition honored more than two years of hard work for the organization, which was started in September 2014 by student veteran Armando Castro when he noticed the need for an organization for student veterans on campus.


Since then, the group’s membership has grown to more than 125 members and participated in numerous events and fundraisers to help the university and community – most notably, starting a Textbook for Troops program on campus, conducting a rucksack march to raise money for homeless residents, renovating a veteran’s house in rural Oklahoma, and opening a Veterans Resource Center on campus.


The local chapter was also one of six schools selected as finalists in the business plan competition after they submitted the organization’s plan for growth and service for the 2016-17 academic year. At the conference, they gave an in-depth presentation of the business plan to a panel of executive members from Google, Microsoft, and other companies who volunteered to judge the competition.


While the organization competed against schools that were larger and had more resources, the business plan’s specificity and unique strategies contributed to their third place finish, according to Jennifer Hosley of Greenwood, president of the SVO.


“A lot of the competitors’ business plans focused on one aspect or audience, and we focused on engaging a broad group of people in our region: the community, students and veterans,” Hosley said. “We wanted to make sure everyone gets a piece of the pie.”


The organization received $2,300 for placing in the competitions.


Student veterans attending the conference were:


Alma: James Brown, Jr.


Canehill: Jenna Jerkins.


Greenwood: Kim DeBar and Jennifer Hosley.


Fort Smith: Marco Monterroza.


Roland, Okla.: Tanner Galbiso.


The Student Veterans of America is the parent organization of the Student Veterans Organization, with more than 1,300 chapters across the country representing more than 550,000 student veterans.


For more information about the Student Veterans Organization, contact Hosley at jarnett00@g.uafs.edu. For more information about services available to veterans at UAFS, contact Dawn Webster, veteran’s coordinator with the Financial Aid Office, at 479-788-7092 or dawn.webster@uafs.edu or visit http://admissions.uafs.edu/veterans/veteran-services.