As a five-year member of the National Guard, Erika Havenaar has seen first-hand the struggle of veterans and their families.
When she came to CMU, Erika had originally chosen a business major. After taking a year off to complete basic training, she came back with a new mission: to help veterans and their families adjust to life after active duty.
After she returned from basic training, Erica decided to pursue her dream by majoring in social work.
“Veterans are a group of people I feel very connected to, and I see how much of a struggle they go through. Someone needs to be there to help them. In my opinion, there’s never enough we can do for the veterans of our country,” said Erika.
She is also a part of the Peer Advisors for Veteran Education program on campus, which pairs incoming veteran students with upperclassmen students who have also served in the military to help them adjust to campus life.
“It really helps when veterans come off active duty and transition to being on campus, and they have that person on campus who can help guide them where they need to be and help them find all the resources they need to be successful.”
Erika is finishing up an internship with the Holy Cross Children’s Services in Traverse City, where she works with foster children and families in need. She believes it’s just as important to work with the families of veterans as well as the veterans themselves.
“There are a lot of social workers who work with veterans who have PTSD, but often people forget that families of veterans also are dealing with that as well,” Erika said. “So, I would really like to help the families learn what they need to do and help them adjust to life after their loved one comes back from deployment. I want to work not only with veterans but with their families as well.”
After graduation, Erika plans to move to Tennessee where she will transition to active duty in the military full time.
Following deployment in 2019, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work.
Erika was recently promoted to sergeant in the National Guard, and is part of the Michigan Cyber Protection Team.