Florida eases the transition between military service and civilian life with veteran-friendly campuses and businesses.

Desheun Hines and his wife Patricia are strolling across the lush University of Tampa campus where Desheun is pursuing a Business Management major in the Business College and Patricia will soon launch into an accounting degree program. The couple are United States Marine Corps veterans who relocated to Florida, Patricia’s home state, to pursue an education using Florida GI Bill benefits. Given the huge support they found here among  veterans and non-veterans alike, the state’s seemingly endless array of recreational opportunities, and its warm and sunny climate, it didn’t take them long to decide that Florida is also where they’ll build their careers.

Veterans Centers and Veterans Clubs provide vital support to students

Desheun and Patricia first gained a two-year degree at Hillsborough Community College, a Florida institution known for its extraordinary veteran friendliness. While there, Desheun served as the President of a vibrant Veterans Club and found that the kind of camaraderie and support that Florida schools provide via their Veterans Centers and Veterans Clubs greatly reduce the burdens of transitioning.

“Starting up in school in Florida was a lot less stressful than I thought it was going to be, mainly because of the veterans offices here and how active the schools are in making the environment veteran-friendly,” he says. “They have people who can walk you through accessing the GI Bill and scholarship program benefits, and enrolling—they give you step-by-step help.” Patricia adds that the centers are also comfortable, inviting places to decompress, hang out with veteran and non-veteran friends, and get counseling when necessary.

“The Veterans Clubs jump-start the connection between veterans and non-veterans and hopefully create relationships that continue beyond school,” says Desheun. “I’m a firm believer that if we can get people together while they’re in school, they can learn and have fun together then, and afterwards too. Non-veterans can learn about what it means to be a veteran and veterans can learn how to become a civilian all over again. That’s very beneficial when it comes to employment and being able to adapt.”

Community, camaraderie and brotherhood

Desheun and Patricia have discovered that the supportive atmosphere they experience on campus extends into the environment at large. “The community down here in Florida is very appreciative of what we did and the service we fulfilled. They’re so welcoming and positive. They seem to want to help us use our benefits and transition.”

“I think a veteran-friendly population that is genuinely interested in us is so important and something most veterans want,” says Desheun. “We want to be accepted. That’s part of the reason we love the military so much—because of the camaraderie, the brotherhood. If we move somewhere that doesn’t support us we’re not going to do as well. We’re not going to become those heroes that people want us to be when we’re out here in the civilian community.”

Businesses in Florida want to hire veterans

Florida businesses are also exceptionally veteran-friendly says Desheun whose studies have given him a foothold in the entrepreneurship community. “I get a lot of opportunity to talk to business owners,” he says. “One of the things they’re always wanting to know is how they can attract veterans to their organizations. The values, commitment, loyalty and dedication we have are definitely things they want.

Businesses are asking: How can we get our nation’s heroes to become our industry heroes? How can we get them in here? The fact that they’re showing the initiative to go and get veterans really helps us out.” –Desheun Hines

“I’ve seen a lot of businesses that enjoy working with veterans and that are trying to help veterans get a job, even if it’s not necessarily with their companies,” Patricia adds. “They often offer resume advice and suggestions about the type of job the veteran might want to apply to. In fact, that’s how I found my present job in customer service.”

Florida is a perfect place for entrepreneurs

Desheun highlights the ways in which the state is cultivating a thriving entrepreneurship culture and growing its population of entrepreneurs through entrepreneurship education programs. “So many schools here are integrating this kind of focus,” he says. “Hillsborough Community College just created a certificate entrepreneurship program specifically for veterans. At University of Tampa they just built a new state-of-the-art facility for entrepreneurship and they’re creating scholarships for it. The fact that veterans already know how to be leaders and manage personnel, and that we’re very structured, organized and motivated makes us well-suited to entrepreneurship. If you want to be an entrepreneur, I think Florida is the place to come.”

The Sunshine State is a haven for relaxation and recovery

Desheun and Patricia are well on their way to achieving their academic and career goals. In addition to her job and academic path, she maintains a business that sells an organic laundry detergent she developed. And Desheun, who was named 2015 Business Student of the Year while attending Hillsborough Community College, is expanding his business community network and management skills by the day.

The couple attributes the progress they have made to the extraordinary encouragement of their professors and the positive, relaxing atmosphere of their surroundings. “Florida is so big-hearted,” she says. “Veterans need to go somewhere where they can relax and detox from the stress they faced,” Desheun adds. “Florida is just that kind of place—laid-back, non-judgmental, diverse and helpful, not to mention full of great food and wildlife!”

Other articles about veterans who have made Florida their home:

Moving to Florida Was One of the Best Decisions This Veteran Ever Made