Each year college campuses, retail establishments, and the government recognize the service of the nation’s service veterans. Parades, free and discounted meals, as well as other perks are offered in an effort to say “thank you for your service.”
Veteran’s Day 2016 was no different. At CCBC Catonsville, the day was marked by a special lunch and handmade cards. But what matters most in the Veterans Center is the feeling and sense of community.
With handmade cards and personal well-wishes, the children from CCBC Catonsville’s Child Care Center delivered their gifts to student and faculty veterans. The children were excited to see veterans and say, “thank you,” in addition to posing for photos with veterans and Veteran Success Center staff. One little girl decided all of the veterans were now her new friends.
Christina Duncan, Director of Veterans Services across all campuses, explained why veterans need more services than the average college student. “They do need more of the community feel that they had when they were in the military…especially on a commuter campus. So, that’s what we’re trying to do, give them that sense of community, a sense of belonging, and to build the environment that makes them more successful at school.”
Recently, CCBC was ranked within the top 20 in the two-year college category for Military Time’s Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 (http://www.ccbcmd.edu/About-CCBC/Newsroom/news-articles/2016/11/07/09/42/Veterans.aspx and http://www.militarytimes.com/bestforvets-colleges2017) -- proof CCBC is using resources to effectively help veterans navigate the transition from military to civilian life and as a college student. Duncan adds, “I found out that we have a lot of support from administration, from faculty, from staff, from the community that not every school has and I’ve been really impressed with that at this campus.”
Aimee Carpenter, a former Air Force staff sergeant enrolled at the University of South Florida told MilitaryTimes.com, "I think if I hadn't worked at this office [veteran’s center], it would have been a pretty difficult road, honestly, in getting back to civilian life." She relied on tutoring from other veterans and tutored veterans herself.
All of the CCBC campuses have a Veteran Success Center where veterans can go and get help specialized to their service. This help may be in academics, but it may also come in the form of benefits or special active duty/veteran only job fairs, news, and mentoring projects. Duncan is responsible for training faculty and staff on veteran issues as well as how the veteran student is different from the student just out of high school.
It’s not just Duncan who speaks highly of veteran’s services at CCBC. Health Informatics student and U.S. Army Veteran Geraldine Key says, “It’s a good service for the veterans because we’re in an environment that veterans come in and utilize the facility…and we can get other veterans to help us out when things are tough,” echoing the sentiment of community the offices try to bring. “We collaborate a lot with other veterans and have a comradery.” Key believes the best part about the center is the information a veteran can find as well as job lead and résumé resources.
By sponsoring events and taking time out to celebrate veterans on days like Veteran’s Day, the centers on all of the campuses show their commitment to the “veteran student” and her success – something Duncan didn’t really get when she left the military and went to graduate school. “We are very diligent in letting people know we are here and that they do have a lot of options whether it’s an event to attend, or tell them that they do have VITAL if they need it…We really are here for the veterans.”