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September 2, 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. Over three years, visits to the VMSRC have increased 87 percent.

“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, where 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 for veteran and military students is granted to veteran and military students. You can access pre-enrollment by going to the Success Center and presenting your military or Veterans Affairs (VA) ID.
  • PAVE (Peer Advisors for Veteran Education) connects incoming student-veterans with student-veterans already on campus in order to help them navigate college life, identify challenges they are facing, refer them to the appropriate resource on or off campus, and provide ongoing support to their academic and personal ventures. Stats tell the story ­­– of the 403 students in the PAVE program from 2016 to 2018, nearly 75 percent enrolled again after their first semester. JCCC has the distinction of being one of three community colleges in the nation to be selected for this program.
  • JCCC Veterans Club is a fun group with the goal to get 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 member of Student Veterans of America (SVA).
  • Free textbook and calculator checkout is available at the VMSRC to veterans. Textbook donations are accepted in the VMSRC throughout the year.
  • Credit for military training can be evaluated at no charge for tuition.
  • 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, which includes healthcare and mental health services and job searches.
  • Free athletic tickets, free haircuts at the JCCC cosmetology salon and $10 dental cleaning at the dental hygiene clinic are part of JCCC’s on-campus services to veterans.

JCCC salutes veterans year-round

Since the VMSRC opened in 2015, foot traffic has doubled. Hidy Lopez, Veteran Services Outreach Assistant, said the best part of her job is seeing a vet’s face 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 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.