Pavel Zaytsev is not a typical Suffolk University freshman.

Unlike classmates who entered the University after graduating high school, Zaytsev followed a different path – arriving on campus straight out of the war in Afghanistan.

Pavel ZaytsevHe had received a hands-on education about the real world long before enrolling in a college class.

“The military taught me many things, like how to be punctual, as well as being honest and having integrity,” says the Zaytsev, 26, who is attending Suffolk University through the Yellow Ribbon G.I. Education Enhancement Program. “I learned a lot of old-school values.”

Financial support

The Yellow Ribbon program offers up to $25,000 in grant money annually to veterans pursuing a degree at the University.

Zaytsev and his family came to America from their native Russia in 1989. The self-described “rebel” enlisted in the United States Army when he turned 19.

During his time in the military, Zaytsev rose from private to become a member of the special operations unit. He was deployed to Afghanistan four times, but decided earlier this year that it was time to accept a new challenge.

He chose Suffolk University in part because of its location. His family settled in Erie, Pa., but he had visited Boston and enjoyed its “culture and diversity.”

Business and pleasure

A Finance major, Zaytsev is taking six classes, with Business Globalization being his favorite. He also is enjoying the social scene and took the lead on starting a campus paintball team.

Reaching out to veterans

The Yellow Ribbon program’s financial support is merely the starting point in the University’s efforts to support students who are veterans or active service/reservists.

“Over the past two years we have assessed the needs of military students at the University through focus groups and online evaluations,” said Associate Dean of Students Richard DeCapua, speaking casually at a fall semester welcome reception for students on the GI bill or involved in the Yellow Ribbon program.

The reception offers a chance for the students “to meet and hear from their peer group and to talk about the services and resources the University has to offer, as well as partnerships that we have locally,” he said