WINDSOR TERRACE — Number two, and on the march!
St. Joseph’s College has been ranked second in the Northeast & Islands region on the Military Times’ “Best for Vets: Colleges” 2021 list — the Catholic college’s highest ranking to date.
“Veteran students are an important and growing demographic across all three of our campuses — their experiences and deep sense of purpose enrich our community of scholars and learners,” said St. Joseph’s College President Donald R. Boomgaarden, Ph.D. “Our ranking in Military Times is a validation of our institutional commitment and approach to serving the brave men and women who have given so much to their country.”
Only Syracuse University finished ahead of St. Joseph’s on the Northeast & Islands regional list.
St. Joseph’s also earned the number five spot for private not-for-profits, number 41 in general education, and number 42 rank nationally. The rankings are based on responses gathered about more than 70 issues relating to costs, programs, policies, and benefits and services offered to military-connected students, as well as federal data from the U.S. Departments of Education, Veterans Affairs, and Defense.
Erin D’Eletto, director of St. Joseph’s military and veteran students since 2015, was proud and ecstatic at the school’s latest ranking because more than 300 schools participated in this year’s “Best for Vets” survey.
“We’re here to guide and assist our military-affiliated students, help ease that transition from service member to civilian, and provide long-term support for their personal, academic, and professional goals,” said D’Eletto, further noting that camaraderie is immediately felt at the Veterans Resource Center and within the Student Veterans of America chapters on campus.
She added: “We’re here to help support the development of our military-affiliated students’ new civilian and student identities, separately and in complement with their veteran or military statuses.”
A total of between 200 and 230 military-affiliated students are enrolled at St. Joseph’s Brooklyn and Long Island campuses each academic year, including Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans, National Guard personnel and reservists, spouses, and dependent children. That number is equivalent to at least 3% of St. Joseph’s total student population.
“Since I’ve been on board, anywhere between 60 and 75 military-affiliated students graduate every academic year,” D’Eletto said, “which is wonderful.”
Current U.S. Army recruiter Brandon Ferraro, 26, graduated from the Long Island campus this May. Six years ago, he reached out to 10 local colleges while serving overseas in Korea. The Cathedral Prep high school alumnus was interested in going back to school, having joined the Army after high school and done IT work with the branch for three years. St. Joseph’s, Ferraro said, was the only school that he felt had the best rapport.
“They worked with me and my time zone, which was nine hours ahead,” Ferraro said. “So, when I got my first acceptance letter from St. Joe’s, I knew that was it.”
Ferraro was later called to serve in Kuwait from June 2017 to March 2018. During that 11-month period, however, he was still able to keep up with his studies while more than 6,000 miles away.
“Even though I was gone, the teachers worked with me the whole time,” said Ferraro, referring to the community feeling that was present at all times. “At one point my computer died, or had a completely blue screen at best, and I didn’t have a specific software to run for my [computer science] class with Sister Jane Fritz, CSJ.”
“She gave me other assignments to do just so I could meet the requirements for the class,” he continued. “That was great because she could have simply said, ‘Hey, you can’t meet the requirements, so just drop out of class and take it again.’ ”
Ferraro received two bachelor’s degrees in organizational management and computer information technology in 2020, as well as a master’s degree in cybersecurity this May. He hopes to one day return to St. Joseph’s as an adjunct professor.
U.S. Air Force pararescueman Steven Galvao, 29, is currently studying at St. Joseph’s Long Island campus and hopes to attend medical school upon graduation next year. He enrolled at St. Joseph’s in 2017 to finish the requirements for his bachelor’s degree in biology.
But his first week of school was unlike any other student’s as Galvao and his team were called to aid in the post-Hurricane Harvey efforts in Houston, Texas. Together, they worked 12- to 14-hour-long days for one week — riding in helicopters, conducting hoist operations to save people from their flooded homes, and transporting them to safety at a nearby sports arena.
“I was already worried about starting school again,” Galvao said. “The first thing I thought was, ‘My professors aren’t going to be very happy that I’m missing the first week of school’ and that I was making this bad first impression.”
He continued, “To my surprise, everyone was very welcoming and understanding of what I had to do.”
Galvao’s team was also deployed to Elmhurst Hospital from April to May 2020, helping establish a protocol that would assist in the treatment of COVID-19 patients, especially those on ventilators.
“Again, I was in class when that happened and was taking Genetics and Organic Chemistry II online,” Galvao explained. “I had to find time in the middle of our 12-hour days at Elmhurst or when we got back to the hotels to learn and study — and then go right back to making sure we were providing the best treatment and best care for patients.”
“It was a very eye-opening experience,” he continued. “It honestly pushed me further into my interest in medicine, towards the microbiology aspect of my studies, and working in a hospital.”