Monday, June 2, 2014

Cuyamaca College named among nation's top veteran-friendly colleges

Cuyamaca College has been ranked among the nation’s “best of the best”  veteran-friendly schools by U.S. Veterans Magazine, the only community college in San Diego County to earn the distinction.

“Cuyamaca College values the contributions of our service members and we are proud to be recognized for the work that we do to help veterans and active-duty military acquire the college education they have earned for their duty and sacrifice,” college President Mark J. Zacovic said. “Cuyamaca College continues to be a leader in the development of support programs for our student veterans.”

The annual lists of the nation’s Best of the Best top veteran-friendly companies, colleges, top government and law enforcement agencies and employers will be published in the Aug. 15 issue.

       Published by DiversityComm, U.S. Veterans Magazine aims to open up employment, business and supplier opportunities with the federal government and businesses for veterans, transitioning service members, disabled veterans, spouses and veteran business owners. The annual review is an evaluation of the nation’s employers, initiatives, government agencies and educational institutions.

The lists were compiled from market research, independent research, diversity conference participation and survey responses. This year, more than 250 companies and institutions participated.

The number of veterans and their dependents at Cuyamaca College has climbed to more than 900 since the enactment in 2008 of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. About 1,500 veterans and dependents attend Grossmont College.

The colleges take a holistic approach in ensuring the educational success of veterans. A comprehensive network of services is in place that includes multi-departmental coordination between Admission and Records, Financial Aid, Disabled Students Program and Services, and Counseling.

Veterans are entitled to priority registration when enrolling in classes, a benefit Cuyamaca takes a step further by providing veterans-only drop-in hours for counseling, as well as workshops, orientations and educational planning and assessments. A college success and transition skills class designed for veterans and exiting active-duty military helps students improve study skills and time management, as well as increase reading speed and comprehension.

Both colleges are included in the 2014 list of “military friendly schools” by G.I. Jobs, a national monthly magazine focusing on veterans making the transition to the civilian workforce. Its “Guide to Military Friendly Schools” honored the top 15 percent of 12,000 colleges, universities, community colleges and vocational schools polled for doing the most to assist veterans with their educational goals.

Cuyamaca and Grossmont colleges both have veterans resource centers staffed by veterans that provides students access to computers, counseling, peer support and mentoring. Active student veteran organizations are also present, fostering camaraderie between members and providing outreach to fellow veterans.

Jacqueline Tirado, the president of the Cuyamaca College Student Veteran Organization, said the veterans resource center is quiet refuge, a place to go in between classes to take a breather from her hectic schedule.

“I find it very helpful here – besides the printers and computers,  there is a lounge area and  whiteboards to do homework and study,” said Tirado, who began as a Cuyamaca College student in January 2013 after completing a four-year tour of duty in the Navy in 2012.  She is working toward a university transfer degree and a certificate in computer-assisted design and drafting. “There are also great resources here like job postings and a variety of services for veterans. I really love Cuyamaca because of its relaxing and calming environment – that’s something I hear from other veterans, as well. I would describe my college experience here as ‘smooth sailing,’ and I think a lot of veterans would agree.”