PORTSMOUTH — The Office of Military & Veteran Services at Shawnee State University has announced the recipients of this year’s “Got Your 6” Awards, recognizing both a student and faculty or staff member who goes above and beyond on campus to support military-connected students in the SSU community.
This year’s student recipient is Jason “Jay” Helsel. Helsel is a father of three and a U.S. Army Veteran who served on Active Duty for over 12 years. During his time of service, he served three combat tours in Iraq and another two in Afghanistan. He was honorably discharged from military service in 2013. Helsel graduated from SSU in May 2021 with his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Arts with a concentration in Illustration. He has been an active member of the SSU student body assisting with the annual Weekend of Welcome events, volunteering with the Student Veterans of America organization of which he served in the past as Vice President and his senior year as the organization’s President, helped deliver meals to quarantined students during this year’s pandemic, and worked as a student employee for the Office of Military & Veteran Services for the past two years.
“Jay has an outstanding old-fashioned work ethic and is among the most competent of student employees I have ever worked with,” said Eric Ramaekers, SSU’s Coordinator of Veterans Services.
After graduation, Helsel plans to start freelancing art in the gaming industry as well as return to SSU to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Game Design.
This year’s faculty and staff recipient is Nicole Neal. An SSU alumna, Neal has been an employee of SSU for over 20 years serving in various roles within the Student Business Center including Financial Aid Technician, Director of Financial Aid, and now as the Director of Student Business Center Operations.
U.S. Navy Veteran Ryan Schiesser returned to SSU in Spring 2017 to pursue his education. At the time of his return, he was disappointed to see the designated space for veterans was limited to a single room. He shared his concerns with Neal, who helped advocate for the program’s current office suite.
“Nikki is a great advocate and supporter of the military-connected,” said Schiesser. “She was instrumental in working with the Veterans Services Coordinator in establishing a fully-functioning veterans’ suite which includes a lounge area for all student veterans and their families to relax and step away from their studies and a busy campus.”
Ramaekers has heard from many student veterans that Neal has been a supportive figure throughout their time at SSU.
“She is a fantastic leader, easy to work with, and quite supportive,” he said. “She has helped shape how both students and student veterans receive support at SSU through many projects and ideas regarding the student veteran population and the Student Veterans of America.”
To learn more about the services offered in the SSU Office of Military & Veterans Services, visit www.shawnee.edu/veteran-services.