Center for vets spring 2016 debut expected

A new Veterans Center may be opening at Los Medanos College in the spring of 2016, to “benefit a large number of our students who have served their country through the military,” said Senior Dean of Student Services Gail Newman.

“Many four-year and community colleges throughout the nation and statewide have created veteran resource centers over recent years, recognizing that veterans that are transitioning from military to civilian life are in need of additional support,” added Newman.

President Bob Kratochvil said the center will offer LMC student veterans the opportunity “to be with other veterans who often have gone through very difficult, even traumatic experiences.” Such peer support is often crucial to their academic success.

In contrast to the current situation in which services for veterans are widely dispersed on campus, this center will have them in one location, and include counseling, a textbook loan program and help with employment.

Services for veterans are now “offered through individual programs and services around the college,” said Newman. “For example, through the Counseling Center, the Admissions and Records Office, the Disabled Student Program, the Student Life Office, the Brentwood Center.”

The center will have a study area, computers and a place for veterans to talk with each other.

According to a 2013 LMC Veterans Task Force Report, many veterans have not participated in formal, traditional academic programs for several years. The center is supposed to help them as they navigate the civilian and academic world.

According to Newman, there were about 300 to 400 student veterans and their dependents attending LMC in the spring of 2015.

The idea of opening a Veterans Center on campus has received much support from students, faculty and staff at LMC — especially, Newman said, “those that have worked directly with veterans in classes and/or in student programs and services. They have been able to observe the need for additional support for our student veterans first hand.”

The idea has also garnered support from members of the community.

According to the Contra Costa College Community College Governing Board minutes from its Feb. 25 meeting, Michael Conklin, CEO and Chairman of Sentinels of Freedom, said his organization would like to donate $25,000 to each of the three colleges in the district so that they can create veterans centers. He added he would get more matching donations, which brings the total to $50,000 for each college.

Kratochvil said that Conklin is scheduled to make a follow-up presentation to the governing board at its Sept. 9 meeting.

More funding is coming from other donors. LMC has been awarded the Keller Canyon Mitigation Grant through Supervisor Federal Glover’s Office. It will be used for the purchase of computers and a printer for the center.

LMC has applied for a larger federal grant to fund the hiring of a Veterans Center coordinator, support staff, new curriculum for veterans and furniture for the center. According to Newman, the college will find out about the results of its grant application in late September.

The new Veterans Center will be located in the old Admissions and Records location by the cafeteria. The copy center is temporarily housed there now because there was a problem with the air conditioning in its Level 1 location.

“They had to move the copy center that the staff and faculty used. They moved them up to our Admissions and Records old space,” said Admissions and Records Director Robin Armour.

When the copy center moves out of its temporary location, the college will start remodeling that space for the Veterans Center.

“We anticipate work beginning on the center in the next several months, and the center certainly should be open by spring term,” said Kratochvil.