Resource center opens to assist vets on campus

The Armed Services Support Group President Leon Watkins (left) and President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh (middle) receive a letter of appreciation from District 15 Assembly member Tony Thurmond’s representative during the opening ceremony of the Veterans Resource Center in the Amphitheater on Thursday.

By Marci Suela, Social Media Editor

As a veteran, Contra Costa Community College District Trustee John Márquez is thrilled to see the Veterans Resource Center (VRC) open on campus.

“A group of us veterans would sit in the (old) cafeteria talking about things we went through and console each other,” Márquez, a Contra Costa College alum, said. “We didn’t have counselors who understood our plight. We now have a center, a place for veterans to sit and talk about classes, counselors and finances — resources we didn’t have when I was a student here.”

In commemoration of Veterans Day, students, faculty and community members gathered for the official ribbon cutting ceremony for the new center in the Amphitheater on Thursday.

During the event, speakers ranged from CCC President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh to Armed Forces Services and Support Group Club President Leon Watkins.

“The joining of two communities — veterans and Contra Costa College — is working together to support our active duty, National Guard dependents, reserve, spouses and veterans to succeed in obtaining a higher education,” Watkins said during the ceremony.

“We realize that there are going to be hills and valleys to travel. As long as we stay focused on the goal, we will support the one percent that provides a blanket of freedom for the 99 percent that sleeps under it.”

The VRC is currently open in SA-101 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Watkins said, “When active-duty personnel finish their service they’re not exposed to resources to achieve health benefits, housing and what they need to apply for school. What happens here on campus is we  are attempting to find and offer resources to support their needs.”

The VRC provides educational information and needs, connections to receive pension and compensation for one’s service, assistance to enter the Veteran Affairs system and assistance in finding housing, he said.

Communications major Francis Chua was one of the 75 people in attendance of the ceremony. Chua is also an Air Force veteran.

He said he received assistance at the VSRC in applying for his benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a VA-administered program which pays for tuition depending on the amount of active-duty service after 9/11.

“I had to prove how much time I served so I can be given the appropriate amount monthly,” Chua said. “The center is a good resource for veterans wanting to go to school, but who are lost in enrolling and applying for their benefits.”

As the daughter of a veteran, Associated Student Union President Safi Ward-Davis said she is deeply appreciative of CCC honoring veterans during the ceremony.

“When my dad came back from Vietnam he didn’t receive this kind of reception,” Ward-Davis said. “It’s great seeing different generations of veterans — past, present and future  — from CCC coming together today to celebrate having this resource.”

She said it’s an opportunity for the college to promote these resources to the community in order to aid veterans and their issues.

“A lot of veterans drop because they don’t have an outlet to address issues like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” Ward-Davis said. “When you get this resource for the community and for the college, veterans and their families can come in to receive assistance. They don’t have to go through it alone.”