CU-Denver programs helps veterans transition from ‘boots to suits’

DENVER — College graduation is a scary time for anyone.  But imagine if you’re a veteran who spent your pre-college years at war instead of in the work force.  You don’t have a lot of on-the-job experience.  So what do you do?

A student veteran at the University of Colorado Denver was worried about that very thing, so he decided to do something about it.

A year ago, Mike Petschel created the Boots to Suits program.

After 12 years in the Army (including deployments to Iraq and Kosovo), he’s now ready to embark on the next big adventure.

“I’m ready to kind of make that leap and work hard and kind of explore the unknown again,” Petschel said.

The Army Staff Sergeant, who graduated from the University of Colorado Denver last month, is about to enter the job market.

Realizing he and the other 24,000 student veterans in Colorado might have a tough time making the transition to the civilian job market, he came up with the idea for “Boots to Suits” at his university.

It’s a program designed to pair student veterans with real world mentors and businesses who take them on as interns, perhaps even eventually hiring them.

The group even looks for volunteers willing to donate money for an actual business suit, so the soldiers look presentable during job interviews.

The program has taken off.  In just the last year, they’ve already helped 65 students on the CU-Denver campus alone, and they expect that number to grow to include students across the country.

“That’s really the ultimate path for this thing.  We want to get it through Colorado and let it spread out from there,” Petschel said.

Izzy Abbass, who’s taking over the Boots to Suits program now that Petschel has graduated, says Colorado business owners have really stepped up to the plate.

“Every time you talk to a business leader, they’re like how can I get involved, what can we do?” Abbass said.

Now, the program will be put to the ultimate test as its founder tries to find a job of his own.  Petschel would like to find a job in marketing, maybe work for an international company.  He’s ready for the next adventure – life after the army.

To learn more about the Boots to Suits program, visit this website: http://www.ucdenver.edu/about/WhoWeAre/community/boots-to-suits/Pages/default.aspx