A safe space: COM launches Veterans Center
Rolanda Hill Roberts could proudly point to many accomplishments: serving in the Army, raising two children and working 13 years in banking. One goal eluded her: completing college.
“Each time (I enrolled in college), I had to go back to work,” said Roberts.
After she stepped onto the College of the Mainland campus determined to change careers, veterans affairs staff informed her for the first time about her veterans benefits and helped her complete applications. Now with financial aid she focused on school instead of work.
This year, she chalked another accomplishment on her list: graduation with a COM Medical Assistant Certificate.
“I was able to stay in this time because of Ms. (Lori) Boyd,” said Hill. “She told me what paperwork I needed.”
This fall to further assist veterans, COM has launched a Veterans Center. With new computers being installed, a lounging area and snack bar, the space invites military and former military students to share experiences, study and meet with staff.
“This is their place. They can come in and relax,” said Detra Levige, COM Veterans Officer/School Certifying Official. “It is a one-stop shop. They can come in and find out what benefits they qualify for, apply for financial aid and be advised.”
This spring the center will add the benefits of a licensed counselor visiting once per month as well as tutoring.
“Veterans can come in and see what resources are out there,” said Levige. “When we talk to people they know about resources in Harris County, but they don’t realize we have the same resources in Galveston County. We’re trying to bring generations together to provide support.”
Levige and staff review veterans’ application, help them create a class schedule and draft a degree plan. Veterans may also apply for a veteran work-study program.
“It’s convenient for me,” said Roberts. “It’s really cozy. It’s quiet where you can get a lot done.”
The Center is also headquarters for the COM Veterans Association, which meets on the last Tuesday each month to discuss fundraising projects, network and share information.
“It’s getting veterans to know each other. Any veteran’s going to be more comfortable opening up to another veterans,” said Brian Brummer, fundraising coordinator of COM Veterans Association.
This month, the COM Foundation Board allocated $10,000 from the September Beacon of Hope Gala proceeds to the COM Veterans Association to address additional needs of the center and individual veterans.
The association partners with Wounded Warriors and American Legion to guide veterans to assistance that meets their needs.
“If a veteran walks in and they are not sure what they are eligible for, we give them their options, help them complete paperwork and help them decide what’s best for them,” said Levige. “My main goal is providing veterans with the quality service they deserve.