Harlem Is Home for Army Veteran Daniel Morton

Daniel Morton, newly enrolled at Teachers College, looks to combine his Army and educational experiences to raise mental health awareness in the military.

Jessica Reyes
November 03, 2021

For U.S. Army veteran Daniel Morton, there was no place to call home but Harlem when he arrived in New York City this past summer. Originally from Arizona, Daniel looked to immerse himself in the culture and community that exist in Harlem while he embarked on a transition to civilian life. 

Having served six years in the Army, education was a priority for Morton, so he chose to attend Teachers College at Columbia University and study clinical psychology. Using a combination of his studies and his experience in the service, Morton wants to advocate and integrate mental health awareness into the military and is beginning to do so by working at the Harlem Vet Center in East Harlem.

Columbia Neighbors recently sat down with Morton to learn more about his experiences in the community, as a veteran, and as a Columbia student. 

How did you come to work with the Harlem Vet Center? 

I became interested in the work study program that the Harlem Vet Center offers, which I found through Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA helps match veterans going to school with an organization tied to what they are studying. The Harlem Vet Center being centrally located in the community is a great resource and helps to bridge the gap on mental health for veterans. 

What kind of work do you do and what lessons have you learned?

Overall, I am hoping to get my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and then go back on active duty being a clinical psychologist. I would say my biggest takeaway from the military is you can connect with all types of different people as long as you're willing to put in the effort. 

What do you hope to do in the future?

The ultimate goal is to become a clinical psychologist in the service because there is a need. There are many unfilled positions for clinical psychologists and I have a passion for mental health and psychology, so I am seeking to fill that need and revamp the behavioral health program in the Army eventually.   

What's your favorite spot on the Columbia campus or Harlem?

Morningside Park has become a favorite and I enjoy running there every other day. I also enjoy that Columbia provides the opportunity and space to meet and connect with people. 

Do you celebrate Veterans Day? If so, what would a normal day of celebration look like? 

While active, I didn't think much about it. Veterans Day was a day to relax, think back on service. This year, I will march in the parade with the Harlem Vet Center and am looking forward to that.

Any advice for current and future veterans? 

My best advice would be for veterans to take full advantage of all the opportunities available, including the educational benefits. There is an opportunity to transition to civilian life and for veterans to go back to school and find what you're passionate about.