On Veteran’s Day we honored our country’s veterans for their patriotism, service and dedication to service above self. This entire month we honor their families with Military Family Month, which shines a light on the commitment and support of military dependents. However, our commitment to veterans and their families is an ongoing priority at the Ventura County Community College District.
In California, approximately 89,000 veterans, active duty service members and their dependents take classes at a community college each year. The Ventura County community colleges serve more than 600 veteran students each semester. These students have specialized skills that may not translate to the civilian workplace and have more real-world experiences than many of our traditional students. Meaning they face both a great deal of opportunity and challenges when transitioning from the military to civilian life.
Veteran student populations reflect the equity and the diversity of our campuses. The Institute for Veterans and Military Families and Student Veterans of America also reports that veterans are more likely to be older, married, have children, have a disability, work full or part-time or be a first-generation student. Veteran students demonstrate the necessity of special and underserved populations in our community as they help enforce awareness of diversity, the importance of practicing inclusivity and spurring discourse on how our colleges can successfully empower students.
These students also complete college at a higher rate than other adult learners, according to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families and Student Veterans of America. They maintain an average GPA of 3.34, compared to the 2.94 average of traditional students.
It is our duty to support our veteran students and their dependents who have given so much to our community and country. Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura colleges have dedicated staff who assist veterans with academic counseling to explore a new career and identify the pathway to get there. Additionally, staff specialize in student services such as mental health, tutoring and basic needs, among others. To accommodate this special population’s needs, each college has a dedicated Veterans Resource Center (VRC) for veterans, reservists, active military and their families. The VRCs work to eliminate hurdles that hinder students’ chances for success so they can achieve as much, if not more, than the traditional student.
The colleges present a variety of support services to help students adjust to a nonmilitary lifestyle by ensuring a strong support system that veteran students can rely on. Personalized resources include GI Bill Enrollment Certifications — fee reimbursement, housing allowance (if applicable) and pre-enrollment guidance — to a myriad of amenities such as counseling, computers and career opportunities. These services create a welcoming environment for our veteran population and highlight the integral process of building trust and cultivating new skills that help to navigate this new lifestyle.
“We don’t just follow the status quo, rather we are constantly finding ways to improve veteran life on campus and at home. The VRC accomplishes this by ensuring that our faculty and staff are trained to look through the equity lens and from the veterans’ perspective,” said Johnny Conley, Moorpark College’s Director of Student Equity.
Conley, along with Ventura College VRC Coordinator Jordana Ybarra-Telias and Oxnard College VRC Coordinator America Barroso, exemplifies the extraordinary effort we make to build community.
Our campuses provide opportunities for close relationships with faculty, other student veterans, members of military families and the general student population. Students communicate and create a sense of comradery; they ensure that the VRC environment is inclusive. Veteran students can rest assured knowing they have a voice of advocacy and a network of support to help navigate through the tumult of transitioning lifestyles and the new challenges brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.
At VCCCD, we encourage and support veterans, reservists and families, and extend an invitation to make our colleges your first choice.