Veterans Resource Center helps students veterans adjust


The Veterans Resource Center at Skyline College. Photo credit: Mark David Magat

New college students approach many difficulties, but for student veterans, this transition is filled with different, and more complex hardships.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) website stated that in 2013 there were 1 million student veterans using their GI bill to advance their education. That number was expected to increase by 20 percent in the next few years.

After four years of serving in the U.S. Army, Rudy Ferrer, left his combat boots for his textbooks to become a Skyline student. This is a common decision for student-veterans with the VA estimating that 80 percent of student vets attend public colleges.

“As a kid, getting out of high school and joining the military, taught me how to take care of myself independently and organize myself,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer wanted to go to college and apply his skills to the “outside world” as he furthered his education and earned a degree.

In his time in the Army, Ferrer learned skills which would follow him to his civilian and student life. He learned independence and discipline but he also the significance of bonding with others.

“You..miss the comrades, the people you were with for a long time,” Ferrer said. “You build a strong bond, a relationship.”

Despite this, Ferrer felt his transition was rather smooth, due to taking advantage of required programs which offer career assistance and provide information about transferring such as the Transition Assistance Program, and Soldier for Life.

These same programs showed Ferrer how to navigate school sites to find more information about the resources available at campuses for veterans, which is how he discovered the Veterans Resource Center on the Skyline campus.

Like Ferrer, Christopher J. Smith, who served in the U.S Marine Corps for four years, learned skills he would use as a Skyline student. This included perseverance, self-determination, as well as problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.

Also similar to Ferrer, Smith felt leaving the military was an easy thing to do. However, the transition into the real world was on the tougher side.

“I didn’t know how to really talk to people, being my vocabulary was pretty vulgar and upfront,” Smith said. “Going from being around Marines all day to civilians was very different and took some time adjusting.”

Through the Veterans Resource Center, veterans and service members are connected to resources that range from housing arrangements to information for educational benefits, health benefits, and employment assistance.

Some of the educational benefits consist of being provided with more information about what classes to take, as well as being connected with counselors. The Veterans Resource Center, connects students with employment opportunities as well as readiness essentials for transferring to colleges.

The lounge area at the center promotes community by allowing people to socialize as well as providing a study space, computers, and printers. This a great opportunity for student-veterans to interact with one another and find commonalities. With most student-veterans being between the ages of 24 and 40, the age gap between them and traditional college students can cause a disconnect.

The staff in The Veterans Resource Center are aware of the challenges this transition can present. While the difficulties may not be present for everyone, they want students to know they do not stand alone.

Gina Ciardella, the Program Services Coordinator, for the Skyline Veterans Resource Center is there to provide support to these students.

“I feel with my role here, I am able to give back to our veteran community, which is near and dear to my heart,” Ciardella said.

The staff is also learning, and adjusting to what the students need. The student veterans provide feedback, which allow room for growth and improvement with the services, and classes offered.

“51.7 percent of student-veterans complete their degree or certificate in four to five years” the VA estimates. The VA says this rate is similar to other students.

“My favorite part is that every day is different,” Ciardella Said. “There’s always opportunities to learn from our students.”

The Veterans Resource Center is located in Building 2, Room 2350.

They are open M-Th 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. They can also be reached at [email protected]