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Center is 'safe haven' for veterans

College unveils Veterans Resource Center, a place to help them transition back into civilian life, find a fellowship.

November 10, 2010|By Britney Barnes, britney.barnes@latimes.com
  • U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, left, joins members of the Golden West College Student Veteran Organization in opening the Veterans Resource Center at Golden West College on Tuesday.
U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, left, joins members of the… (KENT TREPTOW, HB…)

Golden West College on Tuesday officially unveiled its first dedicated space for returning veterans, a resource the campus hasn't seen since the Vietnam War.

The college held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its Veterans Resource Center, a place for returning servicemen and women to get help transitioning into and navigating the community college bureaucracy.

College and district officials were joined by veterans old and young on the college's quad for an opening ceremony as the sun drifted behind a building.

The attendees, and a smattering of students who stood on the grass looking on, were cast into a cool shadow as a female vocal troupe sang two of the Andrews Sisters hits before the police academy's color guard held a presentation of the flags.

As a chill set over the ceremony, emotions ran high for some as they spoke about the sacrifice veterans make and what society owes those who make that sacrifice.

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"What you are doing is paying a debt that we owe to some very brave fellow Americans," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) about the center. "They protected our freedom and ensured that we can live the way we do."

For some veterans, re-entering the system after several years of service is harder than just learning the lay of the college or tricks to snagging the best classes.

While navigating the college, former servicemen and women are also transitioning back into civilian life. They are learning to live at a different pace, re-integrate with their families, get a job and find housing. Some veterans are also dealing with traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder.

"This generation of veterans is going to have greater needs than any generation of veterans since World War II," Rohrabacher said.

Other veterans have a hard time connecting with the typical community college students, being older with different life experiences. This disconnect is the other reason the veterans center is so important — fellowship.

Experience has found that students who form a connection to the school do better in classes and have a higher rate of success, said Debbie Bales, the college's manager of outreach and promotions. The center gives them a place to connect with people who have had similar experiences, she said.

"It's just been found helpful and almost necessary for them to meet each other and help each other," she said.

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