By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–Jose Aponte ’17 has been awarded a fellowship by the National Veterans Leadership Foundation (NVLF).
He is the first Indiana University student to win this award.
Aponte, a U.S. Armed Forces veteran, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2017. He then earned a Masters of Interdisciplinary Studies (MIS) graduate certificate in 2019. He is currently on track to graduate with a master’s degree in mental health counseling in 2022.
In addition he has contributed to numerous extracurricular aspects of campus life. He helped the Student Veterans Organization president organize and brainstorm networking events for vets on campus, he was the first assistant director of student media with The Horizon, and was the first station manager of Horizon Radio, where he co-hosted The Latin Lunch Hour with Dr. Jennifer Ortiz.
“Winning this fellowship is an amazing opportunity for personal growth and networking with other successful veterans from other parts of the country within their respective educational tracks,” Aponte said.
The NVLF aims to help universities better serve their student veteran population and their connected family by understanding their unique needs and fostering their success so positive outcomes are achieved together. The Foundation seeks to accomplish these goals through leadership support, fundraising, highlighting the contributions of veterans on campus, supporting the professional development of staff, and launching new programs based on shared best practices.
Indiana University is one of the original 12 founding partner institutions.
Aponte’s fellowship will involve a series of meetings at The Ohio State University geared towards becoming a better leader. Onboarding is scheduled for January 2022.
“As a retired member of the military, I have had my time as a leader,” Aponte said. “This fellowship will provide me with more advanced leadership skills so I can step into my own [mental health counseling] practice sooner rather than later.”
Aponte credits Kimberly Pelle, director of the Adult Student Center (ASC), with supporting his journey. It was Pelle who made him aware of the fellowship and encouraged him to apply.
“Kimberly is an amazing person with a wonderful heart,” Aponte said. “She always puts the needs and wants of the student first and is always looking for ways not only to make us successful students but successful humans.”
Pelle had known Aponte for some time, mainly through his frequent use of ASC resources and participation in the nontraditional student community, where he exhibited the qualities that led her to suggest he apply for the award.
“What set Jose apart from many other students was his willingness to ask for help and advice when he needed it,” Pelle said. “He was always there for his classmates and friends.”
Balancing obligations at home with academics and numerous involvements on campus, Aponte impressed Pelle with his cheerfulness and his “need to give back and pull people up.”
“I thought of Jose as a leader on campus and an asset to the university, and I knew he would be successful in every challenge he took on,” Pelle said.
Aponte has welcomed the news of his fellowship with a mixture of excitement and humility, and looks forward to representing all of IU.
“When I was notified, my heart exploded with pride,” Aponte said. “I never thought I would win this fellowship let alone be the first in all of IU to be sent to do so. Winning this only shows me the amount of faith IU has in me.”
Homepage photo: Jose Aponte with Dr. Jennifer Ortiz at Commencement, 2017.