PCC / News / August 2, 2012

PCC builds services for military veterans

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In the Marine Corps, Zach Schoonover served two tours of Afghanistan and Iraq where he helped in the nations’ rebuilding efforts. Recently, he has helped Portland Community College build a respected veterans affairs resource center at his home campus.

As more veterans return home and go back to college, the need to assist them in navigating benefits and acclimating to college life is growing. PCC has roughly 1,400 students who are military vets and that number is increasing. As a result, PCC responded by establishing the Rock Creek Campus Veterans Resource Center – the first, and only, one-stop resource center that provides a space dedicated for student veterans to network and relax.

Zach Schooner, pictured with Rock Creek Veterans Resource Center Specialist Elizabeth Bergstad, likes the casual atmosphere of the resource center, where veterans say they feel comfortable.

Zach Schooner, pictured with Rock Creek Veterans Resource Center Specialist Elizabeth Bergstad, likes the casual atmosphere of the resource center, where veterans say they feel comfortable.

Currently, the Veterans Services Office at the Sylvania Campus only has an office to certify student educational benefits. The Cascade Campus has a small area outside of the library and the Southeast Center doesn’t have an adequate area to serve vets yet. But there are plans to create full-service Veterans Resource Centers across PCC thanks to input from students like Schoonover and funds from the college’s bond program.

Schoonover, a Rock Creek resident, said he’s a big fan of colleges establishing resource centers for his peers, which can make a huge difference in the acclimation process.

“It’s a fantastic place for veterans at Rock Creek to come in,” Schoonover told the House Veterans Affairs Committee back in May at the State Capitol as part of a presentation with Financial Aid and Veterans Services Director Bert Logan, and Rock Creek Dean of Student Development Narce Rodriguez. “They come in, hang out, get information they need, find out where to go to get financial aid on campus, learn how to transfer to four-year universities and get information on other VA benefits. We’ve pretty much set up a support group in there. And, we’ve started branching out and doing community service projects that help people in the county.”

The last two years, PCC has amped up the awareness campaign for the needs of veterans. Students and staff organized a Veterans Appreciation Week in the spring across the district that included specific workshops for veterans, jobs and resource fairs, and guest speakers. On top of that, students coordinated service projects such as fundraisers for Lacey House (Oregon’s first and only privately funded, full-service home for homeless veterans) and deployment care package drives each term.

Schoonover, along with Financial Aid and Veterans Services Director Bert Logan, and Rock Creek Dean of Student Development Narce Rodriguez, testify to the House Veterans Affairs Committee back in May at the State Capitol about PCC's veterans services.

Schoonover, along with Financial Aid and Veterans Services Director Bert Logan, and Rock Creek Dean of Student Development Narce Rodriguez, testify to the House Veterans Affairs Committee back in May at the State Capitol about PCC’s veterans services.

“They have a very effective veterans services program,” said Rep. Brad Witt (District 31), who toured the Rock Creek VRC in May. “It’s a major transition moving from the military back into civilian life and then into school. The camaraderie that’s available through the resource center is very important. Taking that big leap, making that transition, jumping into something that is unknown; it’s easier to make that leap or jump when you are making it with somebody else.”

Rock Creek set the standard thanks to Rodriguez, who identified the need for a staffed VRC after convening a group of concerned faculty four years ago.

“I wanted to ensure that when our veterans came back from war that they were able to have the services they need provided to them at the community college,” Rodriguez said. “It was also a goal of the faculty who were really struggling in the classroom in understanding who the veterans were in class.”

Schoonover is grateful. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies of Islam from San Diego State University in 2000 before serving a five-year stint abroad. He worked from 2005 to 2011 as a private military contractor until coming home to enroll at PCC to explore how to set up a small business. In total, he’d been removed from civilian life for more than a decade and didn’t know many people when he returned. The Rock Creek VRC helped him find his way.

“It is a huge transition coming back to school,” Schoonover said. “The big problem that you face is dealing with a younger generation who doesn’t necessarily have the same perspective as you. The resource center has provided a good place for veterans to come and calm down when they’ve had a difficult time. The nice thing about having it on campus is that you see those individuals day in and day out that are also using the resource center.”

For more information about PCC’s Veterans Services, call (971) 722-4502.

About The Author: James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

Comments

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x by Sue Swain 2 years ago

As the former wife of a Viet Nam vet, who returned with unrecognized PTSD, one who was spit at and cussed out as he returned to the US, I am thrilled that PCC is doing something positive for our returning vets. My heart goes out to these men and women who sacrificed their lives for us.

Thank you Zach and Narce for setting this up. If I can help, let me know.

Regards,

Sue Swain

x by Rose Mary Colorafi 2 years ago

As a PCC Disability Services (DS) Counselor, my interactions with Matt Blankenship about veterans’ issues at Cascade campus have always been mutually beneficial for our students. I stand amazed and grateful for the trust, willingness, sacrifice, and sense of duty our veterans have given us. I will never forget the increased sense of security I felt in New York City when I saw fighter jets flying overhead in the weeks following 9/11. Wounded veterans are very welcome at DS and can find out more at http://www.pcc.edu/resources/disability.

x by Robert Hindahl 2 years ago

My name is Robert Hindahl and I am one of the PCC Veteran Service Officers. Am at at the Rock Creek Campus on Mondays and Tuesdays from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm in Building #9 if you need assistance with your Veterans Educational benefits. My Rock Creek number is 971-722-7709 and my Sylvania contact number is 971-722-4503.

x by Robert Green 2 years ago

A BIG Thank You!!
You all are very helpful and informative. I am a student in the Welding program and had lots of questions about what benefits I had. They not only answered all questions, but connected me to the right network to increase my educational success at PCC.

x by Nicole Tobin 2 years ago

Thanks to all our vets & good luck in your new pursuits! We’re happy to have you at PCC and to help you get where you want to go next!

Veteran benefits for college can often be used for study abroad through PCC’s international programs (in Italy, Spain, England, Costa Rica & Mexico) and we’d love to help vets investigate these opportunities. There are additional scholarships available, but usually have deadlines at least 6 months in advance of the program — so plan ahead!

Visit PCC’s study abroad office or make an appointment at:
http://www.pcc.edu/about/international/study-abroad/

PCC Study Abroad
971-722- 7152