Montana State University

MSU staffer's work on behalf of veterans earns her a seat at President Obama's town hall meeting on Friday

August 13, 2009 -- By Michael Becker, MSU News Service


Because of her work to help student veterans, Brenda York, director of MSU's veteran services office, was invited to sit on the platform with President Obama during his stop in Bozeman on Friday, Aug. 14, 2009.   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
msunews@montana.edu
BOZEMAN -- Two students and members of Montana State University's faculty and staff have been invited to be on the platform with President Barack Obama during the president's town hall meeting Friday in Bozeman.

Brenda York, director of MSU's Office of Disability, Re-entry and Veteran Services, and two student veterans were invited to the meeting by representatives of Sen. Jon Tester. In addition, music professor Elizabeth Croy has been invited to sing the national anthem at the meeting.

The town hall meeting will be held at Gallatin Field airport at 12:45 p.m. Friday. The meeting is one of several stops President Obama will make in the West to talk about his healthcare reform plans.

York received a phone call from Tester's office Wednesday, coincidentally, just as she was making plans to stand in line for tickets to the president's appearance at Gallatin Field.

"The guy asked me if, instead of waiting in line for tickets, I would like to stand on the platform," York said.

York's office works closely with MSU's student veterans to make sure they receive the tuition assistance, scholarships and other help afforded to veterans. About 350 veterans enroll at MSU each fall.

York has also worked with colleges across the state to implement veteran assistance programs, and she also helped convince the Montana Board of Regents to allow state campuses to participate in the Yellow Ribbon program. The Yellow Ribbon program helps eligible college-bound veterans pay for tuition beyond the amounts covered by the GI Bill.

"I'm very honored," York said. "Even if I wasn't on the list, I would be really honored that Sen. Tester has recognized all the work MSU has been doing for veterans."

With York will be two of MSU's student veterans, animal science senior Jamie Hollett and community health sophomore Sam Averitt. Both were invited to the president's platform because of their service in Iraq and because they exemplify veterans pursuing degrees at MSU, York said.

Hollett was in Iraq from November 2003 to November 2004 as a water purification specialist, though she spent much of her time as a driver and gunner for supply convoys that delivered water to military camps.

"I was very surprised to receive the invitation, and I'm looking forward to meeting the president," she said.

Averitt was in the Marine Corps infantry in a surveillance and intelligence unit from September 2007 to April 2008. He said plans on making a career out of the Marines after college and was excited to be invited to sit near Obama.

"It's definitely a cool thing," Averitt said.

Croy, who was invited by Bozeman mayor Kaaren Jacobson to sing the national anthem before the meeting, said that while she focuses on teaching singing at MSU, she's only sung the anthem in public before at her daughter's school.

"I think I messed up the words and started too high, so I'm hoping I don't do that this time," she laughed.

Related Stories

"MSU becomes part of Yellow Ribbon program to help student veterans," July 16, 2009 -- http://www.montana.edu/cpa/news/nwview.php?article=7326

Contact: Michael Becker at becker@montana.edu or 406-994-5140