Fragrant coffee and steaming lunches are not uncommon in the Veterans’ Resource Center (VRC). It is the existence of the VCR itself that is uncommon.
Southwestern College earned the designation of a Military Friendly Campus by Victory Media, a veterans advocacy organization. SWC was one of seven military friendly colleges in San Diego County. Victoria Media produces the Military Friendly website, centered around helping service members transition to civilian careers by connecting them with colleges and jobs.
Military Friendly institutions “excel in supporting post-military students, both financially and socially.” Other criteria are graduation rates, financial aid eligibility and job placement.
Army veteran DQ Fryersoa, said he attempted to enroll at Mesa College, but an employee there turned down his Cal Vet college tuition fee waiver. By state law, Veterans are entitled to waivers of tuition and fees at any California community college, State University or University of California campus. Freyersoa said Mesa College personnel told him that the U.S. Veteran’s Affairs Department took too long to reimburse the institution. Southwestern College was the only community college that did not require money upfront for tuition.
Army Veteran Tammy Rivera, 32, a political science major, said she experienced the same situation at Grossmont College. Financial reasons aside, Rivera said Southwestern has a more veteran friendly environment.
“The school is very understanding of the fact that people haven’t come to school in years,” he said. “Teachers really help you out.”
VRC coordinator Jonathan White said SWC’s inclusion in the list could also be attributed to the resources it provides, including a “home base” to share lunch and talk to people with experience.
Rivera said VCR is a home away from home.
“There’s always coffee, water and today I brought tacos,” she said. “People can come here to print out their homework. It’s by veterans, for veterans. We are helping each other out.”
Rivera said some veterans decline assistance, but Fryersoa said they are always free to change their minds.
“Sure, there’s still vets that need help, it’s just on us to reach out for the help,” he said. “It’s not about race, it’s not about religion, it’s about protecting each other.”