Campus & Community

Frankel says PBSC veterans center can be national model

Calling it “a subject very near and dear to my heart,” U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel was at Palm Beach State College in Palm Beach Gardens Monday for the ribbon cutting and official opening of the Veterans Resource Center.

2015 Vet Center 01-edited
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, third from right, help with the ribbon cutting for the new Veterans Resource Center along with from left: Joel Flores, PBSC program director, Suellan Mann, executive director of the PBSC Foundation; Bruce Gamradt, president of Ibis Friends of Veterans Charitable Organization, Inc.; Jean Wihbey, Palm Beach Gardens campus provost; Jason Keating, president of the Student Veterans Club and Dr. William Paczkowski, Student Veterans Club advisor.

More than 60 people, including representatives from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs West Palm Beach office and local veterans organizations, attended the ceremony at the center on the second floor of the library. The Veterans Resource Center gives student veterans a place to relax, connect and get information on the college and community resources. The goal is to expand the services to include academic advising, registration and VA certification, making it a one-stop shop.

“We’re going to watch and hope this is one of the models for the country,’’ said Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, who has introduced bipartisan legislation in Congress to reauthorize a grant program for colleges and universities to establish similar centers.

With her son a Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, Frankel said she understands the challenges veterans face transitioning back to civilian life. “I’m blessed that he came home safe and sound. I can tell you I have so much empathy and respect for all veterans because I understand a little bit from watching what transition looks like,’’ she said. “Our veterans, our men and women in service… deserve the very best and the opportunity to be successful. That’s what this center will help do ─help them make that transition peaceful, without anxiety so that our heroes can be great students and also be successful at whatever they decide to do.”

While the legislation Frankel has co-sponsored would provide a revenue source for colleges and universities to open similar centers, the Veterans Resource Center is the result of a partnership with the Ibis Golf & Country Club in West Palm Beach. The nonprofit organization furnished the center and donated $25,000 from its golf tournament in March to establish a scholarship fund and stipend fund for student veterans. The organization has been supporting Stand Down House and Wounded Warriors of South Florida, but it decided to add PBSC as a beneficiary of the golf tournament this year.

Jason Keating, president of the Student Veterans Club, who helped pushed for the center, said he is pleased that Frankel attended the ceremony and happy that the Ibis Golf and Country Club and the College worked to make the center possible. “That says something about what we’re trying to do.”

Mary Ann Goodman, a public affairs officer for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in West Palm Beach, presented Keating with a U.S. flag to hang in the center. Goodman said the flag has flown over the Capitol and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, helped get it in time for the ribbon cutting.

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