DelTech continues to grow student veteran services

Delaware Technical Community College is making strides for its student-veterans. Last week, the college opened its new Veterans Resource Center at its Charles L. Terry Campus in Dover — joining centers at its Stanton and Georgetown campuses.

The Terry Campus center was funded by a donation of $22,000 from the Naient Foundation, which, according to its website, is a “provider of asset management and business processing solutions for education, healthcare and government clients at the federal, state and local levels.”

“What we found, with Naviet, the criteria for their particular donation was in line with several of the priority needs of the college, one of them being the Veterans Resource Center,” said Judi Sciple, vice president for Institutional Effectiveness & Development at DTCC. “So, we were invited to fill out an application, and we received a first-time donation from Naviant … which we’re very pleased about.”

The center will host guest speakers and student-veteran programs, such as financial education, career workshops and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) seminars. It also will provide a meeting space for the college’s veterans to study, relax and engage with fellow veterans, and for the Veterans Inspiring Progress (VIP) student organization that offers support and networking for the campus veteran community.

“This center is another example of our ongoing efforts to provide support for veterans at all of our campuses statewide,” said Delaware Tech President Mark T. Brainard. “The opening of this center means that we now have Veterans Resource Centers in all three counties to help our student veterans achieve their educational and career goals. We sincerely appreciate the support of the Navient Foundation in making this project a reality.”

Each of DTTC’s VRCs is funded differently, and Sciple noted that the college partners with military and veterans organizations throughout Delaware.

The college is aiming to provide as many services to veterans as they can, which includes academic counselors and help with VA and tuition assistance benefits. The college VIP program connects student veterans with resources to help them succeed, and offers support and camaraderie. Each campus also hosts Veterans Day events.

“Our VRCs have supported various student veterans across the state. We have had Veterans Administration experts explain VA benefits, which has resulted in a better understanding of VA programs and employment opportunities. We have had résumé workshops, and we have had students struggling with academics receive tutoring at the centers by other veterans,” said Dave Strawbridge, director of Military & Veteran Services. “We have heard thank-you’s for a quiet space to have a cup of coffee.

“I have personally been able to hear stories from our student veterans and learn what they’ve been through, which I can pass to our administrators and instructors. Stories of sexual assault, Humvee rollovers, IED attacks, post-traumatic stress or moral injury are stories they share in these spaces with fellow veterans.”

Sciple said that since Brainard assumed the role of DTTC’s president in 2014, veteran services have increased.

“Our services and programs for veteran students have grown tremendously since then. Having these centers is just one more notch in that tag to help those students.”

“I don’t believe we could be this successful at Delaware Tech without the vision and leadership by our college president, a supportive team at each campus and the wonderful external partners that support our endeavors,” added Strawbridge. “This is truly a state solution to support any of the 76,000 Delaware Veterans who want to further their education.”

DTTC Owen’s Campus radiological technology student Lionel Harris, who served in the U.S. Air Force, agreed. As a Desert Shield/Desert Storm veteran, Harris thanked DTCC teachers for their expertise, as well as Brainard for making the college itself a military-friendly school.

“To say that this is a military-friendly school is an understatement.”

Strawbridge said those using the VRCs — veterans — are generally “non-traditional students,” who have jobs and families.

“Most veterans that I have met are veterans of either OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom] or OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom], but not all.”

Offering student veterans the added support and resources is important to Del Tech, said Strawbridge.

“Student Veterans of America, a national organization whose mission is protecting the G.I. Bill and supporting student veterans and student veteran organizations on campus has highlighted the importance of having a VRC on campus that provides a space for non-traditional students to study, network, socialize and be around like-minded people who have shared similar experiences of being in the military.

“Delaware Tech provides three key veteran support functions: (1) Each campus has a veteran services academic counselor; (2) Each campus has a Veterans Inspiring Progress student veteran organization led by a student veteran and a Delaware Tech advisor who is also a veteran; (3) Now each campus has a VRC. With these three functions intertwined, Delaware Tech has a one-stop shop for new student veterans who can get all of the internal and external support they need to be successful.”

The college has also received recognition for their efforts. For the third year in a row, Delaware Tech has been recognized as a Military Friendly School, a designation awarded to the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools in the country that embrace military students and dedicate resources to ensure their success in the classroom and after graduation.

It also received the 2016 Delaware Warrior Friendly Business Award, which is presented to a Delaware business that supports service members, veterans and their families through workplace initiatives such as employment, networking and support.

“When we better ourselves,” Harris said, “we better our lives, we better our children’s lives, and we better our communities.”