Veterans Center opens its doors on BC campus

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Veterans Center opens its doors on BC campus

Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall cuts the ribbon on the Veterans Resource Center.

Keith Kaczmarek, Reporter

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Bakersfield College unveiled its new Veterans Center in the Campus Center on Sept. 27.

Speakers for the event included BC President Greg Chamberlain, Bakersfield Mayor Harvey L. Hall, Student Government Association president Tawntannisha Thompson, BC Veterans Club president Bonnie Wilson, and representatives of various local politicians such as California State Assembly Member Shannon Grove, Congressmen Kevin McCarthy, and Senator Jean Fuller. Also speaking was Col. David R. Shaw from the California National Guard.

After the speakers made short speeches, attendees were invited to tour the room and veterans were invited to place a pin on a map of the world to show where in the world they served.

The room is bright and offers a quiet place for veterans to come and study, rest, take advantage of the literature, and use the center’s computer.

Made possible by a $20,000 allocation by the SGA and other donations, this room in the Campus Center was renovated with necessities like new paint and furniture.

The room will be staffed by volunteers who are there to help veterans navigate the school system and act as a support center for veteran issues, with employees from Financial Aid and other counselors coming to the center once a week for BC’s veteran community.

Many of the volunteers are employees from other parts of the campus and facility, and each does a two-hour shift.

A small maintenance budget has also been allocated, but the center is still seeking out donations in the hopes of getting dedicated on-campus mental health services for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“More and more, people are trying to help out those who are serving. People are trying to lend a hand,” said Sgt. Nolberto Cordero, a veteran and current BC student. “It takes time to get adjusted. Having this place really helps a lot.”

Jeremy Staat, a volunteer coach at BC, retired NFL player, former Marine in Iraq, and founder of the Jeremy Staat Foundation for veteran issues, said, “BC cares about veterans. They have committed to help the transition from combat to classroom.”

“It’s exciting,” said Chamberlain. “This has been long overdue and we’re thrilled that the community, campus, and students could pull together.”

Deborah Johnson, president of the California Veterans Assistance Foundation, also praised the opening of the Veterans Center during the event.

“As a veteran myself, having a specific center for veterans to come to is important. They need a place to talk and come together and feel safe,” she said. “It’s important for veterans to know their benefits and what’s available to them.”

J.R. Browning, a former member of the Veterans Club who is now at CSUB, started the initial push several years ago to get a Veterans Center at BC when he heard one vet’s story.

“[He was] a student who had a really bad day, he had to wait in his car for someone to come talk to him, and I thought that was really unacceptable,” he said.

Tawntannisha Thompson, president of the SGA, said, “It’s something we’ve needed for a long time. I wish we could have given them a bigger space.”

The Veterans Center is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday to Thursday, and is located on the southeast corner of the cafeteria, facing the Free Speech Area, across from the Assessment Center, next to the SGA Game Room.

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