Skyline honors veterans in campus celebration


Andrew Avilla

Sergeant Michael J. Marl speaks to a student during the campus Veterans Day event on Nov. 11

Skyline College offers significant support to veterans through having a resource center. Veterans who come back to college after their service have a hard time transitioning due to various challenges.

“We try to keep as strong as a partnership as we can, so we can better direct our veterans to the right health services,” Program Services Coordinator Gina Ciardella said. “We have a strong partnership with the Skyline counseling services so there can be appropriate VA Sources as well.”

For many veterans, returning to civilian life can be hard. According to the National Conference of State Legislation website, transitioning from military life to campus life can be difficult for many veterans. This includes balancing other responsibilities, coping with military related injuries, or finding peers on campus.

Often, veterans are in communities that have very little, if any, veterans outreach or support systems. Skyline is an advocate for the veteran having an official veteran’s resource center like many colleges. They are able to guide them to different medical facilities and support groups in their own area that can help and provide services for them. Another aspect of the service is that they provide assistance to veterans by helping set up their whole college experience: late registrations, financial aid, and any decisions concerning field of study that they might be interested in.

Ciardella helps with guiding these veterans to the right educational path, working with the other school departments on how to work with the veterans.

“It’s a much more comfortable environment,” Ciardella said, “because they are surrounded by other veterans. It’s a nice environment to facilitate the connection to resources for them.”

One example of this partnership between the resource center and the veterans can be seen in the story of Byron Suarez, latest guest speaker at Skyline’s Veterans Resource Center.

Suarez was given the type of outreach and support at another community college that Skyline offers to veterans as well. Suarez now comes to the Skyline VRC as a speaker to reach out and inform other veterans of how many possibilities and resources that are available to them, and to share his own experience.

Suarez enlisted in the Navy in 2004 and served a total of eight years. At the end of his service, he was recommended by his command to go onto medical school. However he says that his dream was always to be an Attorney. He applied to three law schools, and was offered a scholarship at Golden Gate University. From there he met other veterans, and with the help of his resource center was able to apply for other scholarships and figure out what it is he needed to do to best succeed in law school.

“I realized that our country wants to do well,” Suarez said. “They are willing to fund it and support and are will to hold my hand through it.”

With the help of his peers, he finished law school and is now at the Santa Clara District Attorney’s office. He stresses the importance of taking advantage of the resources available to you and especially in resource centers like Skyline’s who are there to offer their help and guidance.

He had brung up his main issue concerning the help provided to veterans, that being medical and mental health. He says that more help concerning those particular area can be more provided at Skyline and other community colleges as well. The closest VA hospital is in Palo Alto and the closest VA clinic is in San Francisco. Not only is this inconvenient for transferring veteran students but for every veteran out there who is not located next to these areas. Therefore they cannot get the help or support they need.

As stated in the American Psychological Association, a large number of veterans face constrained access to care when they return to their communities. One-third of the National Guard and reservists were reported in choosing civilian care because they lived too far from the nearest military treatment facility.

Although those particular services continue to be an issue, the educational resources offered to veterans at Skyline has helped them succeed and stay in college.

“The experience has been well so far,” Skyline student and veteran, Gabriel Garrett said. “I am under the GI bill and it gives me more motivation to show up and get good grades and to keep up in my classes. The Veterans Resource Center has helped me in a lot of ways and has given me a lot of information about the resources available for me.”

According to the 2015 Veteran Economic Opportunity Report, it takes an average of 5.8 years for non-veteran students to finish college while it takes the average veteran 2.3 years to finish.


Update: the writer name has been changed to the right one. 10:30 a.m. 11/23/2015