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Services for veterans rank high at JCCC

July 1, 2018

Our military-friendly campus has services for veterans that range from providing a free cup of coffee to finding funding for secondary degrees.

Veterans usually possess a brand of grit that’s unchallenged by everyday living in Johnson County. However, enrolling in classes and acclimating to civilian life can sometimes be unsettling for our local military heroes. That’s when Johnson County Community College’s Veteran & Military Student Resource Center (VMSRC) can be enlisted to help. All students with military experience – past or present – and military dependents are welcome to visit the VMSRC to ask questions, find college or local resources or just unwind between classes.

“We are dedicated to serving our veterans and military-affiliated students,” said Kena Zumalt, Veteran Services Coordinator. “It’s important that our service model is vets serving vets, because there’s an automatic level of trust – esprit de corps – that’s a big piece of our success.”

To aid in that camaraderie, the VMSRC’s comfortable lounge offers:

  • A place to study and work out math problems with a tutor
  • Computers and free printing
  • A refrigerator, microwave and coffee maker
  • Games, couches and a TV

“We’re here to lend a helping hand after active duty,” said Gerardo Ruiz, Veteran Services Intern and President of JCCC’s Veterans Club. “In a lot of ways, it still feels like the buddy system to vets.”

Veterans serving veterans

When veterans or military-affiliated students step into the VMSRC, they are greeted by a Veteran Services student intern who is a current or former member of the armed services or a military-affiliated dependent. The mission: To empower veterans, military service members and their dependents to succeed in their educational and vocational goals.

Here’s what’s waiting for vets at JCCC:

  • GI Bill enrollment and certification is managed by the VMSRC. Veterans can get step-by-step assistance in navigating the maze of GI Bill benefits.
  • Military-specific scholarships are available for JCCC students.
  • Pre-enrollment is available to veteran and military students. You can access pre-enrollment by going to the Success Center on the second floor of the Student Center and presenting your military or Veterans Affairs (VA) ID.
  • PAVE (Peer Advisers for Veteran Education) connects incoming student-veterans with veterans already on campus who can help them navigate college life, identify challenges they are facing, refer them to the appropriate resources on or off campus, and provide ongoing support to their academic and personal ventures. JCCC has the distinction of being one of three community colleges in the nation to be selected for this peer-mentoring program.
  • JCCC Veterans Club is a fun group with the goal of getting its members engaged in campus, community and social activities. The club meets twice a month and is a great way to find lasting friendships. JCCC’s Veterans Club is an official chapter of Student Veterans of America (SVA).
  • Textbooks and calculators can be checked out for free at the VMSRC. Textbook donations are accepted in the VMSRC throughout the year.
  • Credit for military training can be evaluated at no charge.
  • Commercial Driver’s License Class-A training can be covered up to 100 percent by a grant for veterans and their dependents. These classes are also eligible for GI Bill® funds.
  • VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC) has partnered with the VA to offer educational and vocational counseling, help with job searches, and assistance with other VA benefits including healthcare and mental health services.
  • JCCC offers student-veterans free haircuts at the JCCC Cosmetology Salon, $10 teeth cleanings at the Dental Hygiene Clinic and free tickets to all JCCC athletic events.

JCCC salutes veterans year-round

Since the VMSRC opened in 2015, foot traffic in the office has doubled. Hidy Lopez, Veteran Services Outreach Assistant, said the best part of her job is seeing vets' faces become full of hope when they realize they can go to college.

“Most of them become incredible students,” she said. “It’s fantastic when they graduate with an associate degree, a certificate or go on to a four-year school.”

No matter the challenges, one thing remains constant: There is victory when a student-veteran crosses the stage and receives a diploma or frames an earned certificate and quickly finds a job. The academic battle has been won!

Success starts here

If you are a veteran and would like to discover how you can reach your academic goals and use your educational benefits, call 913-469-8500, ext. 4981; email Veteran Services or stop by the VMSRC in COM 305. One call could help you map out a new tactic to find a successful and enjoyable career.

JCCC is designated by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a Principles of Excellence participant and by the U.S. Department of Education as an Eight Keys to Veterans’ Success Site.

Note to JCCC student-veterans: On behalf of your JCCC family, we are grateful and honored you have chosen our College to open a new chapter in your life.