Orange County Board of Supervisors Recognizes Saddleback College’s VETS Center

VETS Center Staff Receiving Award from Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett

VETS Center Staff Receiving Award from Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett

The Orange County Board of Supervisors recognized the Saddleback College Veterans Education and Transitions Services (VETS) Center on Tuesday, September 13th for the department’s excellence in innovation in veteran services and for the positive impact it has on the lives of veterans. The recognition marks another accolade for the VETS Center, having just been named the recipient of the prestigious Dr. John W. Rice Diversity and Equity Award, one of the highest honors in the California Community College System.

Last week, the VETS Center partnered with Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett to host the college’s 8th annual Veterans Resource Fair, which featured Assemblyman Bill Brough and Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, who spoke on civic leadership after military service. The event was also sponsored by Strength in Support, an organization that provides mental health services to military personnel, veterans and their families, individual and family therapy, and mentorship and education to address all areas of our heroes’ well-being. Additionally, over 70 exhibitors were in attendance.

Chairwoman Bartlett stated, “The Board of Supervisors recognizes the outstanding contributions the VETS Program has made in enhancing the lives of both our local veterans and their families. We further extend sincere best wishes for continued success in all future endeavors. It has been a pleasure partnering with the college and the VETS Program in serving our brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms.”

Dr. Tod A. Burnett, president of Saddleback College, stated, “The county’s recognition of our VETS Center is an honor. With the help of our terrific faculty and staff in our VETS Center, we will continue to provide important support for student veterans, active military and dependents on our campus and in the county.”

Established in 2009, the Saddleback College VETS Center was the first fully functional veterans resource center in Orange County and the third in the state. Serving over 1,300 student veterans, active duty military, and dependents each year, the program seeks to bridge the cultural divide between civilians and our military through inclusion; full integration of student veterans in campus life; and by providing training to faculty, staff, and management. With dozens of non-profits and government agencies as partners, the VETS Center also offers counseling and support at the School of Infantry Joint Education Center at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base. The thriving Student Veterans Council and Women Veterans Networking Group add to the resources for support on campus.

With the help of funding from a student equity grant awarded by the California Community College State Chancellors Office, the VETS Center will be able to expand its office to accommodate more students. Rose Adon, a U.S. Navy veteran and criminology major, noted that increasing the dedicated space for student veterans would have a positive impact on the experience of female veterans specifically. She said, “The VETS program is life changing. The staff genuinely care about your well-being and your success in and out of college. You can’t ask for a better team to help you succeed in your new life out of the service.”

For more information on the Saddleback College VETS program visit www.saddleback.edu/vets.

 

The Saddleback Community Giving Back

The 53 Thanksgiving Baskets Collected for Student Veterans

We have a great deal to be thankful for at Saddleback College, especially everything the students and employees do each and every day to give back to the community. Over the past couple of weeks there have been some remarkable efforts that underscore our campus’ spirit of giving.

The Classified Senate led by co-chairs Tracy McConnell and Cathy Beres sponsored the 3rd annual ‘Giving Thanks’ to Saddleback student veterans.  With donations of over 5,000 non-perishable food items from students, faculty, staff, and management, they were able to present 53 overflowing Thanksgiving baskets to student veterans. In addition, contributions of gift cards and cash enabled each recipient to buy a turkey and all the fixings needed to create a complete family holiday meal.

The Associate Student Government sponsored a turkey drive to raise funds and food for student families in our Extended Opportunity Program and Services (EOPS).  The students raised $951 and collected over 3,050 food items including six turkeys donated by a former ASG member. Their efforts provided enough food for a traditional thanksgiving dinner for over 20 families,.

The college’s student services division developed a partnership with Helping Hand Worldwide to provide free groceries each month for some of our students and veterans in need and to raise awareness about hunger in our community. Their first grocery distribution was on November 7th that served 48 students, with distributions occurring on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month in Lot #1 between 12:30pm and 1:30pm.  This group effort was led by Jeanne Harris-Caldwell, Terence Nelson, Joyce Semanik, Lisa Inlow, Sholeh Alizadeh, Erin Long, and Leslie Humphrey.

These efforts and many more across campus make important contributions to our students’ success and supporting our community at large.  We greatly appreciate the work and contributions from hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and management.

Saddleback College Honors Veterans Day at Moving Ceremony

(L-R) Dr. Tod A. Burnett, president, Saddleback College; Terence Nelson, dean of transfer, career, and special programs; Kolin Williams, VETS counselor and Army veteran; Nick Martinez, student veteran; Gary Poertner, chancellor, SOCCCD; Dr. James Wright, SOCCCD Board of Trustees member and Air Force veteran.

Student Amanda Strader Sings the National Anthem

On Thursday, November 8th, Saddleback College veterans were honored in a moving ceremony hosted by the Veterans Education Transition Services (VETS) Center at the college’s veterans memorial.  The event was attended by South Orange County Community College District Chancellor Gary Poertner, Saddleback College President Tod Burnett, faculty, staff, and administrators of Saddleback College, and veterans from Saddleback College and the community.  Amanda Strader, a student at the college, sang the national anthem.

The event’s keynote speaker was Dr. James Wright, a member of the South Orange County Community College District Board of Trustees and a retired colonel of the United States Air Force.  In a stirring tribute to veterans, Dr. Wright stated, “This is a day of remembrance for those who sacrificed and especially those who have fallen.  They are our war heroes.”

Speaking of the services provided to veterans at Saddleback College, Dr. Wright stated, “Veterans are one of our greatest untapped resources.  They are self-sufficient, they understand the concept of sacrifice for the greater good; they have lived it.  They think globally.  They are the role models we need at our colleges.  We owe them our gratitude and the chance to have meaningful careers.”  To read Dr. Wright’s speech in full, click here.

Dr. James Wright

Dr. James Wright

Dr. Tod A. Burnett, president of Saddleback College, stated, “Thank you to our veterans for their service and sacrifice, which does not go unnoticed at our college.  This group of men and women never fail to impress all of us at the college; not only have they risked their own lives for their country, but are typically model students and citizens who display great leadership and compassion.  They are a prized group on our campus and it is our pleasure to serve them.”

Nick Martinez

Nick Martinez, a Saddleback College student who served in Iraq with the United States Marine Corps, stated, “My fellow veterans: You have been part of the world’s bravest and toughest force.  Today let’s celebrate the acknowledgement of our sacrifice, the many thank-you’s, love, and support.”

Kolin Williams, a counselor in the VETS Center and a veteran of the United States Army, served as master of ceremonies and stated, “For many veterans, the transition to civilian life can seem like an insurmountable challenge, but with that challenge can come great achievement.  We are proud of our veterans and thank them for their service.”

Veterans Club Serves and Supports Homeless Veterans

Saddleback Student Veterans Give Back (Photo Courtesy of Virginia Johnson)

Before fall classes started, the Saddleback College Veterans Club was already giving back to the community. On the weekend of August 17th, sixteen student veterans joined forces with several organizations and government agencies at the Orange County Stand Down to serve and support homeless veterans. The Second Annual Orange County Stand Down was a three-day event that took place at the Army Reserve Center in Costa Mesa. Services, including mental and physical healthcare, benefits and housing assistance, children’s services, and showers and meals, were available for homeless and at-risk veterans as well as their families.

The Saddleback student veterans assisted the event by monitoring the showers, taking out trash, providing security at the entrances, providing water for all attendees, and providing other necessary tasks. All of the students were recognized at the event for their effort. The event was coordinated by Jacob Lampe, vice president of the Saddleback College Veterans Club.