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VA chooses PCC for national program that serves vets
Photos and Story by James Hill
Portland Community College is one of 94 colleges and universities nationwide chosen to take part in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC) Program.
First started at the University of South Florida in 2009, the VSOC Program serves as the on-campus face of the VA. Counselors in the program help ease veterans’ transition to student life and assist them in achieving their educational and career goals through the VA’s Post-9/11 GI Bill, and other education benefit programs. The counselors maintain close relationships with local VA Vet Centers and VA medical facilities, referring veterans as needed for counseling or medical services and providing assistance enrolling in and applying for VA medical and nonmedical benefits.
Partner schools like PCC provide on-campus office space for the VA counselors. In addition to PCC, the VA has signed agreements with such schools as Austin Community College (Texas), East Carolina University, Florida State University, Houston Community College (Texas), The Ohio State University, Old Dominion University (Virginia), Pasadena City College, Texas A&M University, University of Alabama, University of Kentucky and University of Nebraska, to name a few.
“When we received notice from them that they wanted to locate a VSOC counselor on our campus, we jumped on it,” said Bert Logan, the college’s director of Financial Aid and Veteran Services. “We are very excited about having this resource on campus. This gives us the extraordinary opportunity to provide our student veterans and their families with an all-encompassing and holistic experience at PCC.”
Logan said PCC, which has more than 1,400 military vets on its campuses, was chosen for this program because of the services it has created for student veterans, the size of its student veteran population and its proximity to a number of veteran resources located throughout the Portland area.
During the last few years, the college has improved systems to streamline certification of educational benefits and was an early adopter of President Obama’s Executive Order 13607 “Establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members.” Many of the principles in the Presidential Order were already in place at PCC through its own initiatives, Logan said.
One of the college’s cornerstones in serving military vets is the Rock Creek Campus Veterans Resource Center – the first, and only, one-stop resource center at the college that provides a space dedicated for student veterans to network and relax. There are plans to create full-service Veterans Resource Centers like the one at Rock Creek across PCC thanks to the current work by the college’s bond program.
In addition, the college has active veterans’ clubs at Sylvania, Rock Creek, Cascade and Southeast Center. The clubs hold regular meetings where students come together to support one another, share information and promote strategies for improving the veteran experience at PCC. The campus clubs offer a wide range of social gatherings, skill-building workshops, and events designed to educate the college community about veterans’ issues and honor those who have chosen to serve.
“For many veterans, the transition from military life to the academic world can seem more challenging than a boot camp obstacle course,” said Julie Barber, faculty advisor for the Sylvania Veterans’ Club. “Connecting with other veterans, and especially with those who have successfully navigated that rocky route, can help immensely.”
For information about club meetings, contact the rep at your respective campus: Julie Barber (Sylvania) at Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org, Jaime Rodriguez (Rock Creek) at email@example.com, Matthew Blankenship (Cascade) at firstname.lastname@example.org, or James Pepe (Southeast Center) at email@example.com.
Steve Gordon will serve as PCC’s Vet Success On Campus representative. Gordon’s responsibilities include assisting veterans with questions they might have about veteran benefits, enrollment, the VA Medical Center, VA guaranteed home loans, compensation and pension. For PCC students who are military veterans, Gordon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or can simply stop by the Veteran Services Center at the Sylvania Campus (CC 246).
“I am excited to have the opportunity to become a valuable resource for all veterans who attend PCC,” Gordon said.
For more information on the VetSuccess program, go to http://www.vetsuccess.gov.