By Oscar Rogel
From 1997 to present day the office of Veteran Affairs at College of the Canyons has continued to help veterans complete their educational goals.
Director of Veterans Affairs Renard O. Thomas has been involved since the beginning. From a small cubical located within the Administration and Records building, the center has now become a full size office building since 2009.
“It gives us more room to operate to get more done,” said Thomas. With roughly 300-400 students enrolled through the VA per semester, 10 percent of them graduate or complete what they need and move on. In fact, this semester 31 percent are graduating this spring semester. “They’re motivated,” said Thomas. “They’re easy to work with and well disciplined.”
About 84 percent of the students are currently enrolled through the chapter 33 post 9/11 G.I. Bill meaning, they have served after Sept. 11, 2001. The G.I. Bill was created for lost time for veterans that serve our country giving them a chance to catch up or return to school.
Despite the success rate of these veterans in school at COC, the transition from a military life to the student life is not always the simplest. As with many students, it’s very easy to become distracted. Some of the veterans have suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder also known as PTSD, and Traumatic Brain Injury also known as TBI.
Many veterans transitioning from military to the college life struggle with income, since most of them don’t have a job immediately after finishing with military service.
“We have some that are angry with the VA department because their benefits sometimes don’t cover everything and they have no other source of income,” said Thomas.
The VA office at COC does its best to help veterans in all situations but its main goal is to help them access their educational benefits through the Department of Veteran Affairs.
With a initial interview and student educational plan, the VA office helps guide veterans return to a normal civilian student life.
Thomas and his staff also help veterans connect to career opportunities as well as designate space with eight computers accessible to them.
“Having this available, gives them a little more comfort,” said Thomas. “We want to help them to become a effective member of society.”