November 10, 2019 | NVC PR | Leave a comment Deciding to return to school can be difficult for anyone, but it can be especially daunting for veterans, who not only have to transition to civilian life, but may also be recovering from physical and mental injuries. NVC’s Veteran’s Affairs office provides services to more than 1,700 GI Bill students with advising and mentoring. “Sometimes veterans feel uncomfortable and have had different experiences than the average college student; they feel like they can’t do it, or it’s too late to come to college,” said Veteran’s Affairs Senior Coordinator Betty Cunningham, Advising veteran students is not only about what courses to take—it’s also about making sure the student has everything in place to transition to college. The staff of the Veteran’s Affairs Center work only with veterans and have over 20 years of combined experience in the military. Even the work study students employed in the center are veterans. This knowledge is helpful because NVC staff help veterans navigate the web of military education benefits and the paperwork that goes along with that. “In the past, it was all done on paper!” Today, most of the work is done online, but requires the same knowledge of forms and processes, said Cunningham, a graduate of the University of Incarnate Word, who was a military wife for many years where she volunteered her time working to help new military families adjust, and one of her two sons will soon retire from the U.S. Air Force. Cunningham who was one of the first employees at NVC in 1998, also was one of first two advisors for veteran students. Now there’s six full-time staff working in the NVC Veterans Affairs offices, and a handful of part-time employees. NVC has also expanded services for veterans to get involved in college life. In “New Directions for Community Colleges,” it says “student veterans appreciate opportunities to meet and interact with other veterans on campus that can help make the college environment feel less isolating and help ease their adjustment.” NVC introduced the Vet 2 Vet program, which offers a network of mentoring, engagement, membership and resources. NVC’s Veterans Lounge and Resource Center gives veterans a chance to enjoy a cup of coffee, watch TV, eat a snack, use the computers, or engage with other student veterans. Activities for veteran students include fun runs, breakfasts, family game nights, celebrations, and employment workshops. Additionally, NVC offers the SALUTE Veterans Honor Society. According to SALUTE, it’s “the only national honor society in the nation recognizing and honoring the service and the scholastic achievements of this generation’s greatest veterans.” And just recently, NVC has also included veterans and students using military benefits inpriority registration for upcoming semesters. In early 2020, during its 25th anniversary, NVC will have the grand opening of the Desert-Willow Welcome Center and Texas Ash Parking Garage. The two-story Welcome Center will also house the new Veteran’s Affairs and Student Advocacy Center made possible by $6 million in funding received from the Texas Legislature and with the help of Texas Senator José Menéndez. The new addition of the Welcome Center will help NVC consolidate its veteran services to one location, and provide other resources that veterans struggle with such as finding a home, paying rent, counseling, and food insecurity. Future services may include a peer program that will connect a current veteran student with a new veteran student for mentoring and camaraderie.