Expanding Services for Veterans

September 10, 2008

BMCC’s Military Veterans Club (Milvets) will hed its kickoff for the academic year on September 17.

At the top of the agenda was the announcement of $13,000 grant from CUNY to expand veteran services at BMCC. The funding will enable BMCC to provide additional guidance and support as well as mentoring and networking opportunities for students who have served in the military

Easing the transition for veterans
Among other things, BMCC will use the grant to provide specialized counseling services who can help veteran students make an easier transition to civilian life and explore the educational and occupational options available to them.

“Some of the money will be used to train selected veteran students as peer mentors, who in turn can work with incoming students,” says Assistant Professor of Psychology Jennifer Pastor, Milvets’ faculty advisor and the mother of an Iraq war veteran. “We’re also encouraging veterans enrolled at BMCC to apply for Veterans Administration work study,” she adds. “Veterans can play an especially important role assisting in the registrars’ office handling VA paperwork, since they’ll have an inside perspective on the problems students can encounter in applying for benefits.”

A large part of BMCC’s efforts is geared toward building capacity and leadership among our veteran student population, says Pastor. In that connection, she encourages student veteran leaders and mentors to participate in monthly meetings of the CUNY Veterans Liaison Committee at the university’s midtown headquarters.

Negotiating the system
“The opportunity to see the decision-making process firsthand and to network with their peers from other CUNY campuses can be invaluable,” she says. “In addition, student veteran leaders can get to know the people in  charge of financial aid, admissions and other key areas and learn the intricacies of the system so they can help develop and expand services.”

According to Milvets president Aubrey Arcangel, an ex-Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq—in 2003 and ’05, “The transition from military life to student life can sometimes be overwhelming. Milvets is there to help.” Over the past year, Milvets has worked with veterans clubs at other colleges across the country; in April, a contingent of BMCC students along with those from other area schools traveled to Washington to rally for the passage of the new GI Bill, which provides expanded educational benefits to student veterans. The bill was passed by Congress in June.

At Milvets’ kickoff event on September 17, the speakers will include Dean of Student Affairs Marva Craig and Olga Padua, who oversees veteran affairs in the Registrar’s office. “We’ll discuss our plans and priorities for the new semester,” says Arcangel. “But mostly it will be an opportunity to reach out to incoming student veterans—to share experiences and let them know that they’re not alone—and that it’s all going to work out.”

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