A HOME ON CAMPUS
If you’ve considered creating a veterans’ association on campus, following through could be one of the best things you can
do for your student-veteran population, says Brian Hawthorne,
legislative director of Student Veterans of America (www.
studentveterans.org), a nonprofit organization dedicated to
building veterans’ support communities.
“Our veterans have shown themselves to be great leaders,
and they want to be leaders on campus, too,” says Hawthorne,
who’s also a veteran, adding that community colleges with
close ties to a neighboring military base are in an ideal position
to attract prospective members.
With time and financial and human resources in short supply
at many colleges, the prospect of establishing this type of association might seem daunting. The good news is the process is
not as complicated as you might think, says Thomas Warfield,
(left) Veterans practice installing solar panels
on a model rooftop at Bucks County Community
College’s Green Jobs Academy in Bristol, Pa.
(right) War veteran and Harper College
certifying official Thomas Warfield uses a map
to show students where he has been deployed.
the certifying official at Harper College, who spearheaded the
creation of a veterans’ group on campus at the behest of his
supervisor, and is now one the association’s advisers. These
clubs or associations are social, to an extent, he says, but
they’re really about veterans helping other veterans readjust.
At Harper, about half a dozen veterans regularly attend
twice-a-month meetings, nearly a dozen more attend fairly
often, and 60 students receive e-mails summarizing the topics
discussed. Guest speakers have addressed employment issues
and community-service volunteer opportunities. Members are
also planning to host a basketball event to raise awareness
about the association in the college community.
The biggest challenge, says Hawthorne, is a community
college’s quick turnover of students. “Veterans and active-duty
military are there for so little time,” he says. But a high level of
commitment to the association from the college’s top administrators helps establish a strong platform, even as veterans
come and go.
to do with BCCC’s Veterans Green Jobs Training program,
which aims to prepare veterans for careers in such emerging fields as solar and wind energy.
Gillespie got the idea two years ago at a Good Jobs-Green
Jobs seminar in Washington, D.C. There she met a representative of Veterans Green Jobs (VGJ), a Denver-based
nonprofit that helps veterans qualify for green-collar jobs.
(For more on VGJ, visit www.veteransgreenjobs.org.)
VGJ wanted to create a regional hub for veterans training
somewhere on the East Coast; Gillespie wanted BCCC, which
also has campuses in Bristol and Perkasie, to be that center.
Gillespie supported VGJ’s training model, which in-
volves technical skills training, plus additional services
to help veterans complete their educational program and
be successful in the long term. In April, after an 18-month
planning period, BCCC launched Veterans Green Jobs
Training (VGJT), which operates under the aegis of the
college’s own Green
Jobs Academy (GJA).
In June, 14 veter-
ans became VGJT’s
first enrollees. At
the end of their 12-
week program, these
students will receive
tion from the North
American Board of
a specialty in solar
the college, Gillespie
worked to secure
from eight companies in the mid-Atlantic region. “Veter-
ans, especially if they’ve been out of the education loop for
a while, can be very skittish about attending college, so
completing a certification program like this is an enor-
mous confidence builder,” she says.
“Community colleges need to be more proactive about
helping their student veterans,” Gillespie says. “Partner-
ing—with professional, economic, or social-services agen-
cies and trade groups—is the only way to make this work.”
And corporate partnerships are not the only option.
BCCC, for instance, recently struck up a partnership with
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who represents Bucks County
and counts himself as the first Iraq War veteran elected to
Congress. Murphy helped secure $850,000 in federal funding used to create the GJA. “Building a network of partnerships is limitless,” Gillespie says.
Coeli Carr is a business and education writer based in
New York, N. Y.