Going for gold

Veterans Resource Center achieves gold standards

BY ALEX WOODLIFF, STAFF WRITER

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Pam Paxton-Keehner and Sarah Woods (left to right) of the Veterans Resources Center are valuable resources for students with assistance and resources for on-campus veterans. (PHOTO BY MIKEY CEBULSKI, PHOTO EDITOR)

The Schoolcraft College Veterans Resource Center has been recognized has a gold star level program by the state of Michigan for the 2016-2017 academic year.

The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) along with Governor Rick Snyder and Director James Robert Redford bestowed the honor on the Center.  The MVAA was made in order to act as a central coordinating point to better serve those who have served their country, along with their families. Michigan’s Veteran-Friendly School program recognizes academic colleges and universities that have high commitment to supporting veteran students and dependents. Schoolcraft College is one of forty-four higher education facilities to achieve gold status.

The MVAA program has three levels of recognition: gold, silver and bronze.  In order to be recognized as gold, a higher institution Veterans Center must meet several different criteria. These include an established process to identify current student veterans, a veteran specific website, an active students operated veterans club or outreach, a program dedicated to advising veterans on academic and specific career services, an on campus staff member appointed to aiding veterans and dependents system to examine and award credit based on prior military experience, training, monitoring, evaluating veteran and dependent students’ academic retention, transfer and graduation rates.

Pam Paxton-Keehner, the Veterans Services Coordinator takes great pride in the services that the Veterans Center provides. “The longer we’re open the more veterans are comfortable with coming in here.  They can come here and do their homework, they can visit with each other and they come here if they’re having any kind of issues at all.  Clearly as time goes on more and more of them are taking advantage of having a space of their own.  In order to be different from everyone else I wanted that one-on-one,” said Paxton-Keehner.

This is a high honor for not only the Veterans Center, but for the Schoolcraft community.  The Veteran’s Resource Center at Schoolcraft is relatively new, having only opened in 2014.  Receiving this award shows just how much time, care and effort is put in by those working in the Center.  The facility provides many services to both veterans and dependents.  The Center guides about 250 veterans and dependents. These services include study areas, computer and printing services and quiet areas.

According to Paxton-Keehner though unfortunately not all veterans use the services offered by the Center.  Everyone in the Center tries to make sure veterans on campus are aware of the facility.

“I am happy to have joined the team at Veterans Services.  It’s satisfying helping out students in their academic endeavors,” said Veterans Center Assistant and School Certifying Official Sarah Woods.

The Center is also having a toiletry drive this month for veterans, one of the many acts that make it a top center amongst Michigan colleges.  Students, staff and community members are encouraged to drop of toiletries in the box outside of the center or in designated areas on campus.  Not too many other Veteran Centers offer the hours or genuine face-to-face meetings that Schoolcraft does.  Many four year Universities treat their veterans as just a number or have very understaffed offices. This was something Paxton-Keehner set out from the start to set Schoolcraft’s office apart from other schools.  The Center hosts many social events for on campus veterans as well. These include Labor and Veterans Day events, veteran specific career fairs and coffee and donuts during the first day of class.

Sophomore and Veteran Eric Hensley also notes the difference between our Center versus other universities, “I can definitely say from other universities that I’ve been to, even including the military one, this one has the most face-to-face assistance of any place I’ve been to.  It’s nice coming in here knowing I can talk to a person instead of waiting in line or filing a form then waiting to be contacted back.  I’ve pretty much always had streamlined service.”

The Veterans Resource Center provides services that all veterans on campus should take advantage of.  The Center is located on the third floor of the McDowell Center building.  It is open Monday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information visit schoolcraft.edu under the Veterans Resource Center or call 734.462.4351 to talk to Pam Paxton-Keehner or 734.462.4352 to speak with to Sarah Woods.