City College of SF providing program for veterans
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Thousands of veterans home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are enrolling in universities and community colleges. They quickly find out they don't have much in common with classmates fresh out of high school. But, City College of San Francisco is starting a new program that provides companionship as well as help with veteran's benefits in one building.
There is a special kind of student union at City College. To be allowed in, you have to have been in the military.
"A lot of veterans returning from Iraq of Afghanistan have a hard time relating to civilians or people who haven't experienced the things that they have," said Iraq War Army veteran James Small.
Especially 18-year-old community college students.
"I was a combat veteran at 20, so even if I was the same age as they were - it still feels different." said Iraq War Marine veteran Randolph Martinez.
City College of San Francisco has nearly a thousand veterans enrolled right now. A couple of years ago administrators realized they had to do more to welcome them home.
"Quite frankly, we're a little bit ashamed of the way veterans were treated after Vietnam. We're also finally aware we're going to see a lot more veterans with PTSD and TBI," said City College President Don Griffin.
That's part of what makes this vet center so special. While veteran's visit in a former classroom, right next door sit counselors and service experts from the Veteran's Administration. The center is jointly operated by the school and the VA.
"We're meeting them early on and we're showing that we're actually useful first, that we're able to enroll you in real time to receive health benefits and medical benefits," said Jordana Templin of the Veteran's Administration.
Academic counselors are also close by for student-veterans who need help with classes. It wasn't cheap to pull all this together. The City College foundation raised half a million dollars to make it happen. Now that it's here, the center it's not just a place to hangout. It's also a place where veterans can help each other, with class work, and watch each other for signs of trouble -- like depression, anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder.
"It really makes it feel like veterans are welcome here," said Army veteran Mike Smith.
"I think we're the only college that has that has this kind of advantage of actually having counselors and also medical advisors next door, so people can just stop by there and get referrals," said Air Force vet Lady Renee Consollacion.
Something else the veterans rave about is the college has set up a fund to lend them tuition money when their GI Bill benefits are running late.
military, afghanistan war, iraq war, education, eric thomas
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