Morrisville State College presents Liberal Arts Award to Clear Path

Each year, the Humanities Department at Morrisville State College holds its Liberal Arts Awards Ceremony. One award is given to a local organization that has supported students and initiatives on the college campus, and for 2018, Clear Path for Veterans was chosen to be the recipient.

Laura Pierie – a U.S. Army Veteran, Morrisville State College (MSC) English professor, Veterans advocate and member of Morrisville Veteran’s Task Force – had thought about nominating Clear Path for the award, but considered herself to biased to suggest it. In presenting the award to Clear Path’s Social Engagement Manager Kayleen Spicer, Pierie shared how she had first learned about Clear Path and its programs and services for Veterans.

Pierie first met Spicer when she and MSC Associate Professor Wyatt Galusky (then chair of the Humanities Department) hosted a Veterans discussion group on campus based on the book Standing Down: From Warrior to Civilian.

“After our work with the discussion group, Wyatt and I attended an Education Summit at Clear Path and the rest is history,” Pierie said. “Without Clear Path, my role as Veterans’ Advocate would not have been created as they helped convince the administration of the need of better support for student Veterans on campus. Kayleen has helped with programming on campus, support off campus and guidance into the future as we continue to improve our support services for student Veterans. Honestly, I had considered suggesting Clear Path for this award, but I felt maybe I was too biased to suggest this. It was someone else who made the suggestion. What that said to me is their influence on our campus was felt and recognized.”

Returning to her statement about bias, Pierie said Spicer convinced her to participate in a "Heads Up!" art class at Clear Path led by Linda Bigness which culminated in the creation of a paper sculpted head. Spicer helped to prep the class with a creative writing exercise that was “totally out of my comfort zone, and I may have whispered a couple expletives under my breath. … (But) it wasn’t long before I was immersed in the experience and talking with a WWII Veteran who actually thought it was cool I had served in the 82nd Airborne. I was sitting there thinking ‘Oh my God, are you serious? You were in WWII on a submarine, survived, I am so fortunate to talk with you.’ This class convinced me of the importance of art in helping heal Veterans.”

Pierie said that class also unknowingly helped students at MSC. An art project sitting in her office has inevitably led to students asking about the project, which in turn led to an open discussion, and has given Pierie the opportunity to pay it forward to help the students.

“Clear Path’s mission is to support the whole Veteran. That could be through art, woodworking, exercise, acupuncture, yoga, massage, its weekly Canteen, mentoring, helping a Veteran make the transition from military to civilian life, Dogs2Vets and the list goes on,” Pierie said.

Some people may recognize her on campus walking alongside a heeler-husky-shepherd mix. “Alpha” is one of Clear Path’s most recent waves of puppies to enter its new Puppy Fostering Program. (Clear Path is working toward Assistance Dogs International (ADI) accreditation, and one change has been starting the service dog training with puppies.)

Alpha barked at the deer in her backyard the entire time she worked on her remarks for the Liberal Arts Awards Ceremony. “So I guess he contributed to,” she joked.

“Morrisville State College, Clear Path, Colgate (University) and the Telling Project are currently working on a large grant that could potentially bring some exciting programming to our campuses and the surrounding community,” she said. “We recently partnered with LeMoyne College and Clear Path to help Veterans (who are) struggling to find employment, attend college and hopefully find successful careers. And we earned back our ‘Veteran-friendly’ designation because Clear Path helped us identify holes in our support of student Veterans.

“It’s been a busy year,” Pierie added, “and I look forward to working with these women and this organization to enrich the lives of the Morrisville community, and to be a stronger Veterans' advocate in our support of student Veterans. Kayleen and Clear Path, thank you for all you do.”