Oct. 6, 2021, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids Community College students who served in the military have a new support center aimed at connecting them with resources to be successful and be a part of a special campus community.
U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer joined GRCC leaders Wednesday to cut the ribbon on the Veterans Center in the newly renovated G2 floor of Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall.
GRCC President Bill Pink said the college has a history of being a veteran-friendly campus, and the new Veterans Center will increase the ways students connect with support services.
“Our college has always been a place where student veterans are welcomed and supported,” Pink said. “This new Veterans Center will allow us to take this service to the next level. They’ll be able to connect with academic support, but also have a dedicated space to connect with people with shared experiences who are ready to help them with anything they need.”
The U.S. Education Department awarded GRCC a grant in January to create the center, which will serve as a hub for planning and delivering services to students who have served in the armed services.
Meijer, elected in 2020, was deployed to Iraq as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves and worked in Afghanistan for a nongovernmental organization delivering emergency assistance.
“We are so proud of the veterans who have served their country, and the families who have supported them,” Meijer said. “We need to help them get the education they need as well as the support services to help with the transition from the military to college. GRCC’s new Veterans Center is the perfect example of how we can stand with them, and help them build on the skills they’ve already learned in their service to thrive long into the future.”
The center will serve as a single point of contact, connecting veterans with campus resources, including financial aid, advising and disability support. The project also will expand GRCC's partnerships with state and local veteran's agencies, helping students access benefits and support in the community.
The center will help with outreach efforts, making veterans in the community aware of opportunities at GRCC to earn credits for degrees or transfer and in-demand career skills. It will host workshops and speakers, and provide opportunities for networking and social events for the students.
The center will include peer advising through a new Veteran2Veteran program, which provides peer support, outreach, and resources for student veterans through Peer Advisors for Veteran Education, including veterans supporting each other through the transition to college.
Other services will include:
- One-on-one advising.
- Veterans Administration work-study positions.
- Tutoring and academic support.
- Assistance in completing the VA education benefits process.
More than 400 GRCC students take advantage of existing veterans services, and the college hopes to grow that number to more than 500 in three years.
Patrick Coleman, an Army veteran with a career in education and support services, is serving as the new veteran’s success coordinator and will oversee the center.
Coleman worked in several roles with Michigan Works!, an agency that helps people gain in-demand skills and connect them with employers. He then became a business community liaison with the Gerald R. Ford Jobs Corps Center, and became executive director of 70x7 Life Recovery. He came to GRCC as an educational training specialist in 2020 after a post in state government.
He’s also worked in the classroom, serving as an adjunct instructor at GRCC, Muskegon Community College, Davenport University, and ITT Technical Institute.
Coleman will work with a Veterans Success Team that includes Janice Holton, GRCC’s benefits certifying official, who has long helped GRCC students best access their veteran’s benefits, and other staffers with military experience.