Blue Bell/Pottstown, Pa.— Making the transition from military to civilian life can be challenging for many veterans. Introducing college into the mix can make that transition even harder. While key services like veteran-specific orientation and advising can help veterans start their academic careers on the right foot, many challenges they face go beyond homework and test scores.
For the sixth time, Victory Media has designated Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) as a “Military Friendly School,” positioning the institution among the top 15 percent of colleges and universities in the country for its veteran support services.
MCCC takes its commitment to student veterans a step beyond orientation and advising—although those services are part of the mix. A Veterans Resource Center, located in a small, renovated farmhouse at MCCC’s Central Campus in Blue Bell, plays an important role in the lives of the institution’s veterans. Here, students can meet with Veterans Services staff, participate in study groups and tutoring, and build an important support network with their peers.
For student veteran Joe Long, having such a network made a world of difference. Long and other student veterans shared their experiences with the MCCC community during a Veterans Day panel discussion in November.
“It’s challenging to fill the time when no one is telling you what to do. I didn’t know how to be on my own, how to be a student. It’s why I wasn’t successful the first time I came back [to college],” shared Long, who served as a firefighter in the U.S. Air Force.
Today, with a supportive network he built at MCCC, Long is a successful engineering major and works part-time as an assistant in the VRC.
“For me, it started by stumbling on to another veteran in one of my classes, then going to the Veterans Resource Center, then being more active on campus by getting involved in the veterans club,” he shared.
The Student Veterans Organization meets weekly in the VRC and functions like a student club. The group engages in advocacy and education around veterans’ issues and participates in a variety of community service opportunities. This fall, the SVO partnered with MCCC’s Student Nurses Club to tag and donate Trees for Troops. Members have also been working with Shamrock Reins, a non-profit organization in Pipersville that provides equine assisted activities and therapies for veterans, active duty and reserve service members, first responders and the families of veterans, military personnel, first responders and fallen heroes.
MCCC also thinks outside the box when it comes to positioning veterans for success. For example, the College offers free yoga and meditation sessions each semester for student and community veterans. Also, this spring, Psychology faculty members Dr. Anne Marie Donohue and Dr. Deb Greenspan will team-teach a special Intro to Psychology (PSY 101) course section for student veterans. The Psychology department will also partner with the SVO to offer a Veterans Mindfulness Retreat for 20 students.
Veteran enrollment at MCCC has more than doubled over the past decade, with 505 veterans enrolled this fall. To learn more about Veterans Services, visit http://www/.mc3.edu/student-resources/vrc.