|L to R: Lisa Connor, foundation; Scott Thayer,|
Sahar Abushaban, Mark Zacovic, Cuyamaca College;
Dave Kamber, Jerome's Furniture
Now, the college’s nearly 400 veterans have a comfortable, welcoming area where they can go to seek help with paperwork or to meet with a counselor to craft an education plan.
“When the veterans services office opened in November, we had scraped together furniture,” said Courtney Williams, counseling services supervisor. “Now, we have a dedicated, comfortable area for the veterans.”
David Ramber, store manager from Jerome’s in El Cajon, said the more than $6,000 in new furniture, including chairs, desks, file cabinets and bookcases – a donation acquired through the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges -- is going to a worthy cause.
“Jerome’s has been very involved in the community for over 60 years,” he said. “We appreciate those who defend and have defended our country, past and present. We realize that the transition from military life to civilian life can be difficult. Fortunately Jerome’s is in a position to help.”
The snazzy new confines for the veterans services staff is in sharp contrast from years past, when veterans were shuttled to different offices to get the help they needed. And the first people the veterans are likely to encounter in the newly appointed space are fellow veterans in the VA Work Studies program assigned to help staff the Cuyamaca College office.
“The veterans are used to their own sense of community – here, they have somebody they can connect with,” Williams said.
People like work-study student Ray Nieves, a Marine Corps veteran deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003-2011. Drawn by Cuyamaca’s designation as a veteran-friendly school, he is majoring in business and plans to transfer to San Diego State University.
“When I first came here, it was definitely a plus knowing there were veterans services,” Nieves said. “They were very helpful. It’s definitely been a good experience.”
President Mark Zacovic said the college is committed to helping student veterans succeed and appreciates the contribution of Jerome’s Furniture.
“The old furniture that our veterans services staff was using had truly outlived its usefulness,” he said. “Thankfully, the Foundation made the right contact and Jerome’s was incredibly generous. We owe it to our veterans to serve them in a hospitable setting.”
In addition to the veterans services office, the college also has a separate veterans resource center that serves as a place for respite and socializing, as well as doing schoolwork. Cuyamaca is currently in the planning phase of a new student services building, which will include a new veterans center that will house both veterans services and the resource center.
A strong focus on serving the educational needs of military veterans earned the college a ranking among the nation’s “best of the best” veteran-friendly schools in 2014 by U.S. Veterans Magazine.