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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Combat 2 Campus billboards unveiled

Members+of+the+armed+forces+watch+the+unveiling+of+the+billboard.
Members of the armed forces watch the unveiling of the billboard.

The University of Massachusetts Boston is recruiting veterans with a billboard campaign featuring student-soldiers currently enrolled at the university, along with one recent graduate. Campus officials unveiled the first two Combat 2 Campus billboards on the corner of Bowdoin St. and Geneva Ave. yesterday.
“It’s extremely exciting to see a local school with the power of UMass Boston taking a further involvement in the community, coming here to the corner of Bowdoin and Geneva, a place that the city of Boston has worked so hard to revitalize,” said Francisco Ureña, the commissioner of veterans’ services for the city of Boston. Ureña, a former staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, is also a UMass Boston student — he’s currently earning his master’s degree in public administration.
The Combat 2 Campus billboards, featuring two different designs, are meant to highlight and advertise UMass Boston’s special services and educational programs for veterans, potentially attracting more student-soldiers to the school.
The billboards feature six student-soldiers and veterans from the UMass Boston campus. The school plans to put up a total of 12 billboards in and around Boston in neighborhoods such as Mattapan, Roxbury and Dorchester.
UMass Boston currently has over 15,000 students, over 650 of whom are veterans attending on the GI bill. Approximately 150 of those are combat veterans. The university houses an Upward Bound program offering free GED and college-track classes to veterans, a Student Veterans Center and the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Its Social Consequences. The Joiner Center also runs an annual writer’s workshop for veterans with the help of UMass Boston faculty.
Additionally, with the passage of the Valor Act Academic Credit Evaluation Policy by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education in June, the school is working to develop a policy to award course credits to veterans for training received in the military.
On one of the billboards, three UMass Boston students walk in their military uniforms on the school’s plaza. On the other, 2013 graduate Deena Ann Cummings, an Army National Guard staff sergeant, stands in her cap and gown, surrounded by her unit.
Because she was in Afghanistan, Cummings was unable to walk across the stage at 2013 Commencement. Instead, Motley personally congratulated her in his broadcasted speech on Commencement day.
Cummings is still not back and was unable to attend the unveiling, but her sister and friends went in her place. Jennifer Nichols, Cummings’ sister, came in uniform. “I’m excited for her!” she said, adding, “I’m going to take a picture and tag her on Facebook.”
Nichols is also a UMass Boston student earning a second degree in finance. She works with her sister at the Joint Force Headquarters and joined the military only six months after Cummings did. “It was something we always wanted to do,” she explained.
Daniela Cassina Cabrera and Pierre Salomon, two of the students pictured on the left of the billboard, also attended the event. Cabrera, an exercise and health sciences major, was a cook in the U.S. Army for four years and is now in the reserves. She plans to go to graduate school in order to become a physical therapist.
“I’m excited! Happy to represent my friends,” she said. Cabrera added that UMass Boston is “great,” she likes that she can “fit right in and feel at home” on a campus with so many other service members.
Gus St. Silva, the director of Veterans’ Affairs at UMass Boston, picked the six students on the billboards. He hopes that veterans living near the billboard think about visiting him at UMass Boston.
“I hope that they see that there are folks serving from their neighborhood. … There are many veterans that are in the community that may not even know that they’re entitled to benefits. It would be good if they would stop by.”
Carlos Arrendondo, the “Cowboy Hat Hero” of the Boston Marathon, who was photographed at the scene holding together a victim’s artery in order to keep him from bleeding to death, was also present at the unveiling. Arrendondo lost one of his two sons, a marine, to sniper fire in Irag in 2004. His other son later committed suicide.
Motley acknowledged Arrendondo in his speech, referring to him as “our celebrity gold star father,” and telling him, “Thank you for your service and your spirit.”
Next, the chancellor acknowledged the students on the sign. “They look good!” he exclaimed, addressing Cabrera and Salomon. “You’re going to see yourselves in Mattapan, South Boston, Roxbury, Dorchester. So when they roll up on you and say, ‘What’s up?’ know that they’ve seen you!”
These billboards are the third group since 2010, when the university began partnering with Clear Channel to produce a new series each year. The other two series focused on mentoring and peace.
“We recognize that some student veterans have different needs,” Motley told the crowd, “and we owe them the chance to meet those needs.”