This article ran in the VC Star on Jan. 22, 2023.
By Dr. Rick MacLennan
I wouldn’t be where I am today, having the honor to serve as chancellor of the Ventura County Community College District, had I not experienced the combined impact of the U.S. Army and Anchorage Community College.
Let me tell you why.
I was unhoused for a little over a year during (and after) my junior and senior years in high school. I worked a variety of jobs during this time, living in my 1964 Ford Ranchero, and surviving. But my life clearly was not on track. I made the decision to enlist in the U.S. Army to help me find a way out of these circumstances.
During my time in the Infantry, I developed a better sense of my capabilities. While I didn’t recognize it at the time, I gained confidence and many of the leadership skills I use today: effective group communication and conflict management; the importance of collaboration; and how to plan, organize and execute as a team.
The Army also offered me the opportunity to take a few college classes on base through Anchorage Community College. Those classes reignited my sense of curiosity and love of learning.
It would take me another five years after my time in the Army to find my way back to college. Each year that passed reinforced my belief that I was too old (I was 25!). But return I finally did. Upon registering for classes at Portland State University, I quickly learned I wasn’t too old after all, and that this was the right time for me.
Does any of this sound familiar to you or apply to someone you know?
Someone for whom college wasn’t an option after high school, or who wants to get back on track but thinks the “college” ship has already sailed?
I discovered you’re never too old to go back to school. Locally, approximately 29% of the students at Moorpark College, Oxnard College and Ventura College are 25 years of age or older.
And if you’re a veteran of any age, our colleges are set up to serve you and your families. Our Veterans Resource Centers offer personalized service to veterans, active-duty members (including National Guard/Reserves), and veteran dependents. The staff will guide veteran students through the process of getting started and achieving their educational goals.
Among the most valuable of veteran benefits are those associated with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which also allows benefits to be transferred to dependents. It’s the richest GI benefit for higher education in history, notably because it also contains a housing allowance if you’re enrolled more than half-time.
With the monthly allowance based on the cost of living where the college is located, the housing allowance can be an extremely valuable benefit for Ventura County veterans. Each of our colleges also offers financial aid for eligible students to offset the cost of higher education, as well as a wide range of support services to help students succeed.
Most would agree that education and training are important keys to creating a meaningful life. I can’t imagine my life without that educational journey that started with Anchorage Community College all those years ago. Along the way, I’ve seen the incredible impact community colleges across the nation have had on the students and communities they serve.
I often like to paraphrase our mission by saying that we’re in the business of creating hope and opportunity. For the committed, knowledgeable and passionate people who work and teach at Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura colleges and the District Administrative Center, fulfilling this mission is our collective “why.” We believe strongly in the work that we do and in the power our colleges have to transform lives.
Drop us a line. We’re ready to help you write your success story.
Dr. Rick MacLennan is the chancellor of the Ventura County Community College District. To learn more, visit VCCCD.edu or email info@VCCCD.edu.