Alumni found nonprofit for veterans

Operation Opportunity, a nonprofit organization focused on aiding veterans and their families, was founded by two Yale alums.
Operation Opportunity, a nonprofit organization focused on aiding veterans and their families, was founded by two Yale alums. Photo by Cynthia Hua.

Students showed their support for the military with dancing and drinking Saturday night at Box 63 for a volunteer recruiting event for a new alumni-led nonprofit focused on aiding veterans.

Operation Opportunity, founded by Jesse Reising ’11 and Nick Rugoff ’11 last spring, provides mentorship in college admissions and assimilation into college life for children of fallen soldiers and to veterans returning to school after service. Outreach director Kallie Parchman, said over 50 students attended the event Saturday, which marked the organization’s first recruiting efforts, and requested more information on Operation Opportunity’s volunteer college counselor positions.

Reising finished the first half of Marine Corps Candidate School in 2009, but an injury in the 2010 Yale-Harvard game medically disqualified him from military service. Though he could no longer pursue his dream of joining the Marines, he still works for the United States government as a “contractor” in Afghanistan. He said the goal of the nonprofit is to show gratitude and support soldiers who protect American freedoms.

“Operation Opportunity is my effort to repay the debt I owe to those now serving in my place,” Reising said in an email to the News.

While many excellent scholarship and tutoring opportunities exist for veterans and military families, few organizations provide support across the entire college application process, Rugoff said. Operation Opportunity provides a comprehensive range of support from tutoring to consultation on college applications and assistance with adjustment to college life, he explained. The nonprofit has two components: the Gold-Stars Project, which aids children of fallen service members, and the Warrior-Scholars Project, which aids returning veterans.

“The college landscape is foreign territory to most veterans who joined the military immediately after high school, and children of fallen service members suffer a mentor gap as a result of losing a parent,” Reising said.

Though the Saturday event marked the nonprofit’s first recruiting efforts of the organization, the organization plans to attract and train mentors from across the U.S., said Zachary Fuhrer ’11, executive director of IvyCorps, the mentorship component of Operation Opportunity. He hopes to pair mentors and students that have common interests or backgrounds in order to form a “big brother, big sister” relationship, he said. Fuhrer is a former arts and living editor for the News.

Before Saturday night’s launch event, the organization had received about a dozen applications from potential mentors, said Fuhrer, though he has not yet determined how many mentors the group will accept.

Fuhrer said students who are selected to volunteer as mentors will attend training sessions about college admissions and motivation techniques. Through the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Fuhrer said, mentors will also learn methods of comforting students who show signs of grief after losing a loved one.

Operation Opportunity uses online tutoring services so that military families living in rural areas or near military bases without access to local tutoring organizations can still participate in the program, Rugoff said. Students will also be connected with mentors electronically through TutorTrove, a company started by Eli Luberoff ’09, which will allow video-chatting and a virtual white-board.

The first class in the Gold Star Scholars Project will begin in January with 20 to 25 students, and the Warrior-Scholar Project is set to launch in the summer of 2012 with a week-long program for veterans transitioning back into academic life.

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