The Renegade Rip

Student veterans benefit from BC lounge

Myrissa Johns, News Editor

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The Bakersfield College Veterans Lounge has experienced a boost in the number of students utilizing it in recent months. Paul Beckworth, BC history professor and Veterans Club adviser, who is also a veteran of the U.S. Navy, said he feels the club has been experiencing the member increase due to an increased amount of exposure.
“A lot of student veterans didn’t even know we were here, that we have a lounge,” Beckworth said. “Last fall, we actually got out here in front [of the lounge] with a canopy in the first week of school, and I think that got a lot of people’s attention.”
Beckworth said the club and lounge have been beneficial for students for many reasons. He feels that the lounge has given student veterans a place where they can go to blow off steam, and even more importantly, a place for information.
“You don’t know what you don’t know,” he said, explaining that he has seen veterans who didn’t know that they could receive financial aid assistance apart from the GI Bill, for example.
If students might not feel comfortable coming in during a club meeting, he is always willing to meet with student veterans one-on-one, although he does encourage them to join the club.
“Just joining the club, you’re around other veterans,” he said. “It really is a tight-knit group. It’s hard to explain to non-veterans what the life is like.
“There’s that bond that’s there, it puts you at ease.”
Beckworth explained that he believes that by having the lounge, it prevents things from happening on campus because it gives veterans somewhere to blow off steam, which prevents them from blowing off steam elsewhere.
“This place is a place where you can return to center stuff that you might act out,” said Beckworth.
Wesley Barrientos, a kinesiology major and president of the Veterans Club, agreed that the lounge and club have been very beneficial.
“We get to have our own little place of peace and comfort where we can come and relax,” Barrientos said. “Basically, it’s a safe zone from everything.”
Dealing with the civilian population can be one of the hardest parts of returning home and readjusting after a life in the military, according to Barrientos, who said that having the club and lounge prevents student veterans from having to deal with a lot of that.
“It’s a great environment because we know how we feel and we understand each other better than anyone else out there,” he said. “We provide a camaraderie and a place so that you can come and, basically, be understood and feel free.”
Barrientos said he is excited about how the club is doing and mentioned many plans for future activities.
Club members try to go out for pizza once a month, and also have plans for a barbecue at the end of May, a trip to a four-year university, and other club activities.
The Veterans Club also plans to continue with VetFest, which the club held at BC in November 2013 for the first time.
“We’re hoping to do it again this year,” Barrientos said. “We’ve got a lot more planning and stuff ahead of time, so it should be fun, and it should have a lot more stuff going on.”
The club holds its meeting every other Tuesday and Wednesday from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Veterans Lounge. Although students must be a veteran to hang out in the lounge, anyone is welcome to join the meetings and be a part of the club.
“The club is open to anybody that cares about veterans, they don’t have to be a veteran,” said Beckworth.
Barrientos said the club is very thankful to the civilians that come out to support the veteran population on campus, stating, “Any support is welcomed and appreciated.”
He said there are already civilians that support the club, like Terri Goldstein, and he has also seen people stop by the lounge just to say thank you to the student veterans, which they appreciate.
Barrientos explained that he is happy with how the club is going.
“It’s a big thing, and we’re very proud of what it’s becoming.”

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Student veterans benefit from BC lounge