How MTSU, Nashville Predators’ partnership helps military-connected students

Apr 22, 2021 at 04:00 pm by Voice Wire

MTSU graduate student and Class of 2018 alumna Keyann Reaves
MTSU graduate student and Class of 2018 alumna Keyann Reaves, the first recipient of the General’s Fund scholarship, stands outside the university’s Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center. The center administers the scholarship, which is a partnership with Nashville Predators. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

A year after being established, the General’s Fund has helped a Middle Tennessee State University graduate student continue her education as she works to become one step closer to reaching her dreams of becoming a pediatrician.

Keyann Reaves, a Jackson, Tennessee, native and military dependent, was the first to receive support from the fund, which is administered by MTSU’s Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center.

Reaves, who sought her degree at MTSU through her father’s GI Bill benefits, learned last fall when she couldn’t register for classes this spring that her support had run its course.

“My months ran out in October, and I didn’t know,” she said. “I just thought my deferment was late. December comes, and I can’t register for classes because my bill is $3,000. I called everyone I can think of on campus.”

Thankfully, one of those calls went to Daniels Center Director Hilary Miller, who said Reaves was precisely the type of student for whom the needs-based fund was established to assist.

“She said we’re going to find a way to help you,” said Reaves, who earned her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and African American Studies in 2018.

The General’s Fund, created in partnership with the Nashville Predators, was established to help student veterans and military dependents at MTSU whose educational benefits have either expired or have been exhausted. The fund recognizes retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, who now serves as MTSU’s senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives.

Reaves and Gen. Huber will be recognized at the Preds’ Military Appreciation Game on Monday, April 26.

‘MTSU is a family school’

Country music legend Charlie Daniels and his wife, Hazel, the namesakes of MTSU veterans center, helped announce the fund’s creation in March 2020. It was the last public event that Charlie Daniels, who died in July 2020, attended in support of veterans.

“MTSU proudly serves more than 1,100 military-connected students, yet about 20 percent of them no longer have the educational benefits that were earned through service to our country,” Predators President and CEO Sean Henry said. “The General’s Fund will help fill that gap.”

Money raised through the fund bridged the financial gap for Reaves, allowing her to continue working on her master’s degree in chemistry this spring.

“With the help I’ve received from the Daniels Center, and just the General’s Fund, it’s already helping me and it’s the reason I am in school,” Reaves said.

“It’s helping me push through my master’s degree, so I don’t have to worry about how I am going to pay tuition, or take another job, or take out student loans. I can just really focus on school and trying to reach that goal.”

Growing up as a military child, with her dad, Toman Reaves, serving in the U.S. Navy, Reaves and her family lived in Virginia, Texas and California.

“The military was a great option for my dad. In his words, it helped him figure out life and figure out growing up from 26 years old on,” Reaves said. “I made new friends everywhere, so that was a perk. I still talk to some of the people I grew up with on base.

“Being a military child, to this day, is one of my favorite things to be. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t know life any other way.”

When it was time to think about college, the decision to attend MTSU was an easy one for Reaves.

“MTSU is a family school. I have big shoes to fill,” she said, adding: “My aunt graduated from here with a chemistry degree, and she is now a doctor in occupational medicine. My cousin graduated from here with a chemistry degree, and she is now a genetics counselor. My dad graduated from here with a computer science degree and now works with computers and technologies in the military. So, it was my turn to be here and get my chemistry degree.”

And since her freshman year, Reaves found the support she needed from MTSU’s Daniels Center. “The veterans center has been with me since I was a freshman and helped me figure out my benefits and how everything was supposed to go,” she said.

“Everyone is very helpful here. If you want scholarship money, you have to go get it. If you want your advisers to help you, you have to put forth the effort. If you make the effort, MTSU will give you what you want back in return. College is always what you make it.”

Reaves said after completing her master’s degree she hopes to attend Meharry Medical College in Nashville and eventually open her own practice.

“My dream job is to be a pediatrician and to own my own practice,” she said. “I want to focus on African-American kids in the community because a lot of African-American students and kids under the age of 18 don’t like going to the doctor because of stereotypes and things like that. I want to open a practice and every patient’s room is going to be named after famous African-Americans with murals and things like that.”

And with the General’s Fund, Reaves is well on her way to accomplishing that dream, saying it’s an honor to be the first recipient of the scholarship.

“It’s a big deal and is truly an honor to be the first recipient of the General’s Fund. If I’m the person or spokesperson of something, I want to do it to my best ability and to help share this experience with other students who are just like me who are military dependents on MTSU’s campus that can receive help from the Daniels Center because everything here and in the center is here to help us.”

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