'CSUMB made a difference for me'

Tina Banks has beaten the odds.

Of the approximately 800,000 military veterans attending college, more than 80 percent drop out of school during their first year and only 3 percent graduate, according to a report by the University of Colorado Denver.

Tina Banks and Hans, her service dogMany former service members who are adept at patching wounded soldiers, defusing bombs or tracking the enemy have a difficult time navigating a college campus or completing a class assignment. The reasons vary. For those experiencing post-traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety and sleeplessness are often triggered by daily stress – for example, by exams.

Banks was a U.S. Air Force medic who had to deal with severe symptoms of PTSD as a result of her service. She went through counseling at the Veterans Administration and tried various medications, but finally found an answer through a group called Four Paws for Vets, which matched her with Hans, a service dog.

“Hans keeps a block between me and other people, lets me know if someone is approaching me from the rear, picks up things that I drop and even wakes me when I have nightmares,” she said.

Before Hans, Banks said she was a disabled veteran, agoraphobic, and with a poor quality of life. “Since getting Hans, I’m a disabled vet who leaves the house at will and lives life undaunted.”

As part of regaining her life and independence, she and Hans came to CSU Monterey Bay. “I decided to get my degree to further push myself through the struggles I have being around a lot of people,” Banks said.
Hans dressed for commencement with mortarboard and tie

“Now here I am, two years later, graduating with honors, navigating the world with less anxiety and living a life rich with friends and a new-found hope for my life. CSUMB made a difference for me and Hans.”

The human communication major – she has pursued a concentration in creative writing and social action – is a more polished writer than when she came to the university. “I’ll be working on my own book of short stories this summer,” she said.

“My life now is like night and day. I’m doing so much better than I was four years ago, and I may even retire Hans within the next year or two.”

Learn about veterans services at CSUMB

Photos courtesy of Tina Banks
Top: Banks and Hans
At right: Hans in his custom-made mortarboard and bow tie