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SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

Varela brings servant’s heart to campus vets, community

Jacobo Varela, who formerly served in the U.S. Army, is the director of Veterans Upward Bound at Colorado State University Pueblo. [Courtesy image/Jacobo Varela]
Jacobo Varela, who formerly served in the U.S. Army, is the director of Veterans Upward Bound at Colorado State University Pueblo. [Courtesy image/Jacobo Varela]

The Honor of Serving

By Rebecca VanGorder

Jacobo Varela has a true servant’s heart, which can be seen in the way he serves his fellow veterans after already having served in the Army. 

That time in service taught Varela the value of honest communication and being forthright. 

“It is important to be direct and honest in all that you do. Sometimes being direct can initially hurt feelings or may seem blunt, but it is always better than not expressing yourself and avoiding the truth,” Varela said.

He also learned the value of brotherhood and spoke of the void when one leaves the military. 

Varela poses for a picture in his Army uniform in this undated file photo. [Courtesy photo/Jacobo Varela]
“The camaraderie was great. It was always reassuring to know that you had people looking out for you and that you could share common struggles and hardship with,” he said. “When you get out it is like missing part of your family.”

Varela currently works to help veterans on campus via Veterans Upward Bound. This program is a “pre-college, federal grant program just for veterans.” As veterans delve into their educational options, Varela is there to help as their advocate . 

Beyond Colorado State University Pueblo’s programs, Varela helps veterans learn about all educational options from trade to full-time collegiate levels. 

“We help explore all areas of interest from engineering to welding to gunsmithing to business. We then assist the veteran with anything needed to apply and enter school,” he said. 

Veterans Upward Bound also provides workshops to help veteran students succeed in their chosen course. The grant, Varela points out, is meant to target first-generation college students and low-income veterans. As such, he ends up working with veterans “who are at risk, via homeless outreach and work with the local Veterans Treatment Court.”

Varela believes that one of the most pressing issues facing the veteran community is access and receipt of “proper medical care in a timely and professional manner.”

Veterans face exponentially more mental and physical health issues than the nonveteran population. Add onto that the stigma still swirling around mental health issues like a miasma and there’s a cocktail of volatility. Without the proper help, many veterans sadly choose their own treatment, which can be self-destructive, and lead to addiction, homelessness and suicide.

Varela said, “While these issues only affect a percentage of veterans, it can have some very negative impacts.”

The rate of veteran suicide outpaced the non-veteran rate between 2005 and 2018, according to Rand Corporation’s compiled data. Other studies have highlighted the compounding issue of substance abuse or addiction as putting a person at higher risk of suicide. 

Varela’s servant heart has him connected to the community in other ways as well. He also sits on the Board of Directors of Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation. The foundation’s original objective of supporting underserved Hispanic and Latinx communities expanded to include all who would pursue higher education.

 See related:
Faculty Friday: Steve Henson  
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