March 17, 2023, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Kendra Bearss joined the U.S. Air Force when she was 17 years old. Now she assists fellow veterans as they navigate college after serving in the armed forces.
Bearss began at GRCC as a student pursuing an associate degree in Photography. She received assistance from the Michigan Reconnect program and the Futures for Frontliners program to make college affordable.
Once classes started, she began to look for an opportunity to volunteer with veterans. One year ago she began working with the GRCC Veterans Center as a peer advisor. Now with graduation on the horizon, she is stepping into the role of veteran student navigator.
Bearss has experienced the transition from being an active-duty military member to a GRCC student. In her new role, she will be able to support others as they make the same transition.
GRCC currently has over 300 veteran students enrolled. The Veterans Center connects individuals with resources to assist with mental health, financial needs, housing, and more. Bearss also assists veterans with on-campus services such as signing up for classes, connecting with tutors, and anything else they may need.
“It’s important to create a space for veterans to feel safe addressing specific issues and needs,” Bearss said. “A lot of veterans' needs aren’t recognizable to the average person. The Veterans Center provides opportunities for veterans to be unashamed to ask for the help they need.”
Bearss says the most rewarding part of her job is building relationships. The military has always felt like a family for her. Her experiences have given her the ability to see what an individual truly needs.
Bearss encourages students to ask questions. It can be scary and humbling to ask for help, but GRCC faculty and staff are always willing to assist.
More information about the Veterans Center can be found at grcc.edu/veterans.