Supporting our veterans at home
October 19, 2021 |
SDCCD programs and support services help military members prepare for civilian life
As military men and women transition from active duty, thoughts of “what comes next?” are often prevalent. The San Diego Community College District, through various support services and workforce training programs, has positioned itself as a leader in helping veterans on the next step of their journey.
Whether looking to capitalize on GI Bill benefits, which help with tuition and provide book stipends and a housing allowance, or entering workforce training programs to help turn military experience into job skills that more easily translate to a new career, San Diego City, Mesa, and Miramar colleges, as well as the San Diego College of Continuing Education (SDCCE) have a variety of programs and dedicated classified staff to support active duty military, veterans, and military families. In fact, the SDCCD serves approximately 6,000 such students.
For U.S. Navy veteran Amor Carchano, he wanted a college where he could study computer programming. After a visit to Miramar College, he fell in love with the beauty of the campus and the people. For Carchano, going to college was more than taking classes and getting good grades; he also wanted to give back to his military brothers and sisters, and his fellow students.
Carchano, who came to Miramar College in 2019, is enrolled in the information sciences program and plans to transfer to a four-year college. After earning a bachelor’s degree, Carchano hopes to work in higher education, specifically in support services.
In his free time, Carchano helps run the campus food pantry, Jet Fuel, and is President of the Student Veteran Organization (SVO). As part of the SVO, he makes it his goal to share campus resources, including Disability Support Programs and Services (DSPS), financial aid, and how to get involved in campus life, with student vets who may not know what is available to them while at Miramar College.
“I want to teach veterans how to network with their colleagues and professors because the more doors you open, the more successful you will be,” Carchano said.
Mesa College Veterans Success Center and Records Supervisor Vicki Hernandez has been working with military students for over 15 years. She has seen military students struggle as they transition from active duty to active student, and she wants to do everything she can to make them successful. Recently, this includes helping to open a new campus Veterans Center that is nearly three-times the size of the former space, and provides classroom space, meeting rooms, lounge areas, and state-of-the-art technology for students.
“The veterans have given so much to their country; they deserve a place on campus to call home that will set them up for success,” said Hernandez. “Our new center will be a one-stop shop — from academic counseling to career services, to a place to relax with students who are just like them.”
When it comes to her students, her philosophy is “to go above and beyond,” like organizing a virtual recognition of graduating student vets during COVID. Hernandez said that it showed her students that the staff cares about them as they transition from community college to four-year universities and/or jobs and careers.
City College is also leading the charge for its student vets. Military and Veteran Student Support Services Supervisor Dora Meza is taking an opportunity during this pandemic to redesign how to best serve the college’s military population.
Meza said that her role is to simplify processes for veterans, and to advocate for them. Some of the support programs she oversees and tries to improve include academic advising, bringing disability services and students together, holding events for employers to meet with students, and certifying students’ classes. Since military dependents and veteran students need class certification to maintain housing benefits, it is imperative the processes run efficiently and effectively.
“For me, it is all about the students,” said Meza. “I want them to know their concerns matter and I want to meet them where they are.”
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Mario Sanders credits Continuing Education’s Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) classes, which are open-entry/open-exit enrollment programs, for his success as student. Sanders, who was involved in a motor vehicle collision in 2016, is completing the requirements for transfer to a kinesiology program at a university and hopes to become a physical therapist where he can give back to fellow veterans.
In addition to the ABI program that has helped injured vets, among other students, SDCCE also offers a variety of trade programs where student veterans are able to use their GI Bill to get the skills they need to be job-ready. Some of those programs popular among student veterans include automotive technician, auto body and paint technician, automotive service advisor, and shielded metal arc welding.
“Kudos to SDCCE for giving me the confidence to start a degree program; it is because of them that I know I can do this,” said Sanders.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, City College would host a luncheon for its student veterans among other Veterans Day Week activities.
Vicki Hernandez (center) welcomes Mesa College students to the new Veterans Center on campus. (file photo)
Veterans at the District Office before the pandemic.