University officials presented Derek Ridings, 28, with the first Excellence in Service and Leadership Award from the KSU Presidential Commission on Veterans Affairs on April 22.
Ridings’ award was among six given to students from presidential commissions representing such areas as disability strategies and racial dialogue, said Chief Diversity Officer Erik Malewski in an email.
“The nomination highlighted his commitment to helping veterans transition to college and ensuring they receive the support they need to progress toward graduation,” Malewski said.
Ridings, an Army veteran, was raised in Cobb County and graduated from McEachern High School in 2002.
After graduation Ridings served as a military policeman in the Army. While enlisted he did three tours in Iraq totaling 38 months before leaving the military in 2008.
He started classes at Kennesaw in 2010 and is a history major planning to graduate in December, he said.
Ridings is in his third semester working at the university’s Veterans Resource Center.
“I probably put most time into advocating [for veterans],” Ridings said.
He has served as a student government senator for student veterans. His work helps represent the needs of the soldiers as they transition from active duty to college students. “They are two very different activities,” he said.
Ridings said one of his most important jobs is helping veteran students receive their money from the federal government to pay for school, Ridings said.
“We ran into some delays with financial aid,” he said.
This created a problem on what the veterans were able to afford, he said.
“Going to school on a GI Bill [federal benefits for veterans’ service] is not supposed to be a hardship,” Ridings said. He said his work advocating for veterans on the student government led to the award.
Ridings said he is humbled by winning the award, and being able to be the face for those helping veterans.
Malewski said, “It is the effort of individuals like Mr. Ridings that makes possible our recognition as a veteran-friendly campus.”