Suffolk County Community College has long reached out to a special group of students: veterans. Last spring, the school opened dedicated resource centers for the veterans on all three of its campuses.
A new $23,000 grant from the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council will go toward building a 1,700-square-foot permanent facility on the Ammerman campus in Selden to assist veterans, moving the center out of its temporary home and into a new facility in Kreiling Hall, which is also slated for renovation.
The grant was part of a total of $62 million awarded to 101 projects on Long Island, announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Dec. 8.
“The crux of the new grant we’re getting will help us to renovate the new facility,” said Shannon O’Neill, director of veterans affairs for Suffolk County Community College.
O’Neill said the school has about 700 veterans or military-connected students among its 26,000 students. The resource centers gather all of the relevant programs and information for the students and help veterans apply for various benefits and assistance.
“The resource centers provide benefit advisement for the GI Bill as well as tuition assistance. We also assist with some job placement programs, especially for specific organizations and corporations looking to recruit veterans,” O’Neill said. “In addition, we work with all local organizations to assist veterans transitioning from the military back into civilian life.”
Vincent Miller, 43, a student from Westhampton Beach, said he’s made use of the SCCC centers as a physical sanctuary as well as a place to learn about benefits.
“It’s been a great asset for veterans coming back in to school - [it] points them in the right direction and a place where you can just come back and relax inside an area with people who have been through the same situation as you,” said Miller, who is studying business management and hopes to run his own automotive or craftsman business someday. “A lot of times you get the resources here you need, like reading materials or scholarships that are strictly for veterans.”
Miller served in the Army as a sergeant first class and was deployed to Iraq in 2003. He’s met fellow veterans in the resource centers as well. “It’s just a great way to reach out and touch other people who have been in the same position,” Miller said.
Another student and veteran, Jason Chervin, 27, of Holbrook, works part-time at the center and says the resource centers offer veterans a sense of community.
“We have veterans coming in with questions that they had coming out of service that aren’t completely answered, and they’re able to use the resources that the VA has to help guide them through the program,” said Chervin, who is planning to transfer to Stony Brook University’s nursing program upon graduating from SCCC. “They have a path, they have some place to go with questions where there’s people who have been through it already or understand or specialize in the field.” he said.
Chervin served in the Navy as a petty officer third class.
Nassau Community College also has a veterans center on its Garden City campus for its 310 veteran students, according to NCC spokeswoman Kate Murray.
The renovation of Kreiling Hall and the construction of the new veterans resource center are to begin in April, and school officials hope to open the center in the spring of 2018.