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Hancock College Heralds Veteran Success Center

Facility to help former military members transitioning to civilian life, education

The ceremonial cutting of the ribbon marked the official opening of the Veteran Success Center at Allan Hancock College on Thursday.
The ceremonial cutting of the ribbon marked the official opening of the Veteran Success Center at Allan Hancock College on Thursday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A one-stop shop for veterans attending Allan Hancock College is now available with a goal of boosting the students’ educational successes.

College staff, local officials, veterans and students gathered Thursday to mark the grand opening of the Veteran Success Center, designed for current and future students who served in the military plus their dependents.

The facility on the Santa Maria campus is designed to help them access their education benefits, apply for college, register for classes, and access resources as they transition to the civilian world.

“Education is vitally important,” said Col. Todd Schollars, commander of the 30th Mission Support Group at Vandenberg Air Force Base. “And this center further cements that importance of education.”

The center also will give veterans a familiar place once they’ve left the structured life of the military.

“Making that transition to civilian life can be difficult,” Schollars said. “It’s a whole different world for a lot of our veterans that come out and now have to sometimes figure things out on their own. 

“This center, however, takes away that problem. It gives them that dedicated service that they can take part in to be able to get that guidance they need to make the most out of their education,” Schollars said.

But the center does more than connect veterans with the assorted services, Schollars said.

“It lets veterans know that you guys care,” Schollars added. “You guys care about them. You care about what they can continue to contribute to society which is what almost every veteran will tell you they want to do. Even though they’ve taken off the uniform they still want to continue to serve and make America a better place.”

The center, actually a former staff dining facility, also will let veterans connect with each other and socialize.

Hancock Superintendent/President Kevin Walthers said the Santa Barbara Foundation helped support the center's creation.

Additionally, local Rotary clubs have given money to start a emergency loan program for veterans needing a financial boost while waiting for their benefits.

College officials estimate some 250 veterans attend Hancock each semester.

Veronica West, the center’s veterans counselor who holds a doctorate and formerly served in the military, said after the ceremony she hopes the center provides a place of camaraderie for veterans to gain and give support.

“My job is to hopefully see them complete and succeed,” West said. “That’s the biggest goal is to see them come here and not just come to school but come here and really find a community.”

Navy veteran and student Nick Presher noted the support from college administration, staff and faculty for the students with prior military service.

“It is our hope as student veterans that the administration will continue to support and listen to the veterans who attend Allan Hancock College and doing so will allow us to have a voice and further demonstrate to future generations how supportive the college is to veterans,” said Presher, who is president of the Student Veterans of America local chapter.

The Veteran Success Center inside the Student Center is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. most Tuesdays. On the first Tuesday of each month, the center is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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