Celebrating our nation’s veterans

At Cleveland State Community College in Tennessee, retired Air Force Master Sergeant Stephen Brannen was among the Veterans Day speakers. He has been an adjunct instructor at the college since 2015. (Photo: Cleveland State)

Military veterans often turn to their local community colleges for myriad reasons: to upgrade their workforce skills, attain new ones, earn an associate degree and earn credits for prior learning, among others. In fact, veterans comprise 4 percent of public two-year college students, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.

It’s no surprise that community colleges across the country embrace Veterans Day to pay respects to the men and women who served our nation and to highlight their achievements, as well as to present opportunities available on community college campuses.

As in previous years, many community colleges this week will host Veterans Day events with special guests. Genesee Community College in New York, for example, will hold a Veterans Day Honor Ceremony on its Batavia Campus. The event will also be live-streamed at each of the college’s seven campus centers.

“Our intention is to celebrate as a community,” said James Simon, associate dean at the college’s Medina and Albion Campus Centers, who is also a U.S. veteran serving 22 years in the U.S. Air Force.

Student/faculty speakers

Holyoke Community College student and U.S. Army veteran Thomas Kim was among the college’s Veterans Day speakers. (Photo: HCC)

Holyoke Community College (HCC) in Massachusetts this week featured several veteran speakers at its celebration. Thomas Kim was among them. He joined the U.S. Army at age 37 and served four years with the 82nd Airborne as a combat medic, including one year in Iraq. Now 49, he is a business administration major at HCC, a champion golfer, real estate agent and partner and CEO of the Global Project Group, a film production company.

In Tennessee, Cleveland State Community College’s Veterans Day ceremony included guest speaker retired Master Sergeant Stephen Brannen of the U.S. Air Force. Brannen served from 1989 to 1993 and again from 1999 to 2015. He has been an adjunct instructor at Cleveland State since 2015.

At Rio Hondo College in California, faculty member Josh Gallegos this week gave a special address about two Rio Hondo alumni, classmates and fellow football players who died in Vietnam on the same day. The event also honored veteran Mark Tavera — a former member of the Valley Lindo School board of trustees and a community volunteer — who has served in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Reserve. A sergeant major, Tavera served in South Korea among other posts, retiring after 16 years in 2007.

In Ohio, Rick DeChant, who took leadership of the Veterans Initiative at Cuyahoga Community College in 2007 after serving more than two decades with the U.S. Coast Guard, was inducted Thursday into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame. He is one of 20 veterans being honored for making outstanding contributions to society after leaving active duty.

A unique approach

In Colorado, Aims Community College on Friday opens a graphic-design students’ art display that shares stories of 15 veterans called “A Veteran’s Journey Retold Through Art.” The students interviewed veterans and retold their stories visually through photo collages.

“It definitely brings an awareness to what these veterans have gone through,” said Kristian Grimstead, one of the graphic-design students who worked on the project. “Hearing the veteran’s story inspired me to do more to help others and to see the positive side of things.”

Other colleges are using the focus on veterans to announce new programs to better serve them. On Friday, the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) will unveil Credits2Careers (C2C), an academic and career portal designed for prospective military and veteran students. It will, in part, allow participants to estimate potential credits from their military education, experience and training that they can apply to a VCCS program.

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