Veterans welcomed back at luncheon

Student veterans came together at a welcome back lunch on Wednesday, with speakers recounting their experiences returning to a civilian life and how to get through schooling and advancing in their community.

The event was from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. and gave the attendees a chance to gather information about veteran benefits offered at Pierce and other colleges.

Representatives from the Health Center, Special Services, Financial Aid, the Center for Academic Success, Counseling and other colleges attended the event to share information that can help veterans who are struggling through their college life.

Keynote speaker Levi Kinnard created his own business after leaving the military. He found he was overcome with numbness after returning to a civilian life and he found comfort in his community, starting with activities like rock climbing.

“You’ve got to integrate yourself,” Kinnard said. “Identify an industry you’re interested in.”

Kinnard’s business is focused on bringing veteran-owned businesses the government contracts they need.

These contracts are in high demand and pay well. Three percent of subcontracting on the government level must be from veteran-based companies, which amounts to billions of dollars according to Kinnard.

The second speaker, Robert Yopps, also urged veterans to take a hold of this opportunity. He compared college to basic training, something that allows veterans to push through, learn, and better themselves in the process.

“Your experience puts you in the position where people will look to you,” Yopps said. “Take the initiative.”

Colleges are picking up on this industry demand as well, making further accommodations and aid available for veterans. Pierce does not currently have a resource center, though academic counselor Maribel Morales is optimistic.

“It is something we hope to see soon,” Morales said. “We’re hoping to have more of these events to show we support the veterans.”

Pierce will also be hosting a panel of student veterans next month to help faculty understand how they can help these students in the classrooms.

Patrina Croisdale organized the event, which is planned to be part of an ongoing effort to create a more supportive environment for veterans at Pierce. She currently interns at the Career and Transfer Center and has a masters degree in social work.

“I’m definitely passionate about helping veterans,” Croisdale said. “This is a great first step.”

There are also tentative plans for a veterans club here on campus. The club is planned to be a chapter of the Student Veterans of America if enough interest is gathered, according to Croisdale.

“I think the club will give veterans a network,” Croisdale said.

The value of contacts and networking is important for veterans, according to Kinnard. A group is a place to develop skills and find help in various forms.

“Be true to yourself,” Yopps said. “I think the real value veterans have is we’ve handled adversity.”