Campus & Community

Ribbon cutting April 27 for new Veterans Resource Center

Palm Beach State College is holding a ribbon cutting April 27 for a new center on the Palm Beach Gardens campus that gives student veterans their own place to connect, unwind and get information on college and community resources.

Students Clifton St. John, Scott Nechay, Jason Keating, and Luis Gonzalez check out the Veterans Resource Center.

The event will be held at 2 p.m. in the Veterans Resource Center on the second floor of the campus library (room 216). In attendance will be U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, who has co-sponsored legislation calling for a federal grant funding program to establish such centers at colleges and universities.

While Palm Beach State provided space for the Veterans Resource Center, it is a result of a commitment by Ibis Friends of Veterans Charitable Organization, Inc. to furnish the center and donate $25,000 from its golf tournament in March to establish a scholarship fund and stipend fund for veterans.

“This is not charity work. It’s an I.O.U.,’’ said Bruce Gamradt, president of the nonprofit organization, which he established in 2012 with other veteran supporters residing in Ibis Golf & Country Club in West Palm Beach. “This is what we should be doing. We know about the huge emotional, psychological, physical and financial adjustment our service men and women encounter returning to civilian life.”

The organization has donated more than $200,000 from three golf tournaments it has held to help local groups that serve veterans, but this year it wanted students to be among the beneficiaries. Gamradt approached the Palm Beach State College Foundation about ways to help student veterans, including supplementing any shortfall in their government benefits. Veterans will be able to apply for scholarships and for assistance with other expenses.

Scott MacLachlan, dean of student services on the Palm Beach Gardens campus, said the center addresses concerns from student veterans. “We’re trying to listen to the veterans,’’ he said. “They needed a space to make the transition into higher education a smoother process.”

The Veterans Resource Center will be staffed by student assistants who are veterans. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs staff also will be available as needed to assist veterans. MacLachlan said the goal is to expand the center services to include academic advising, registration and VA certification. “We’re trying to bring all of those resources into a space exclusively for veterans,’’ he said.

Jason Keating, president of the Student Veterans Club, said he is excited about the support and assistance that veterans will receive through the center. “It’s going to be extremely beneficial. It’s good to talk to someone who’s had the same experiences as you,’’ said Keating, who served about 11 years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

This is the latest of several steps the College has taken to assist veterans, many of whom returned to school under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill (Chapter 33). In 2009, the College established a one-stop shop at the Lake Worth campus. Through that Veterans Resource Center, veterans are certified for their U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits, and they receive one-on-one academic advising and referrals to other areas of the college and outside agencies. The Boca Raton campus also designated space for the Veterans Club to connect and hold meetings and get information about the College and services available to veterans.

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