This article ran in the VC Star on May 18, 2024.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, when we observe and bring awareness to the millions of Americans that live with mental health conditions. It is also a poignant reminder of the importance of destigmatizing mental health and promoting access to care and support for all, especially for our veteran students.  

As the president of Ventura College, I am immensely proud to highlight the invaluable contributions of our veteran students. These men and women have not only served our country with honor and courage but continue to enrich our campus community with their unique perspectives, experiences, and unwavering determination. One of the most pressing issues facing our veteran students is mental health. The challenges they face transitioning from military to civilian life, coupled with the rigors of academic pursuits, can often be overwhelming and have an impact on their mental well-being. That's why at Ventura College, we are committed to providing comprehensive support through our Veteran Resource Center (VRC).

The mission of the VRC is to establish a supportive and welcoming environment for students who are active-duty personnel and veterans, as well as their eligible dependents. The center provides a wide-range of technical expertise to assist with applying for VA benefits, financial aid assistance, academic counseling, and registration support.

Elizabeth Vasquez, the VRC Coordinator, emphasizes that the center is “more than just a place; it's a lifeline for our veteran students.” The wide range of services available is tailored to meet the unique needs of our veteran community, including counseling, peer support groups, and access to mental health professionals. These services are crucial in addressing the mental health issues that our veteran students may face and ensuring they have the support they need to succeed academically and personally.

A cornerstone of these offerings is the veteran student support group, which meets biweekly at the center. Led by veteran Edwin Solano LMFT, the support group has been a successful initiative of the center.  “This group is for veterans by veterans focused on helping each other adapt to a new environment by learning and implementing positive coping skills.” Solano recounts how he is “proud of how the VRC student veterans have transformed this group into a supportive, and motivating unit.”

Operating a center where students can access services significantly impacts their lives. As reported by the US Government Accountability Office, student veterans are 30% more likely to seek mental health care compared to their military peers. This statistic emphasizes the crucial role that campus veteran resource centers play in destigmatizing mental health resources.

At Ventura College, we are steadfast in our commitment to supporting our veteran students. I am proud to announce that VC has earned the designation as a veteran-friendly school. This honor underscores our efforts to cultivate a welcoming and supportive environment for our veteran students, honoring their service and sacrifices. It reflects the collective commitment of our faculty, staff, and students to create a campus community that respects and values our veteran students.

As we observe Mental Health Awareness Month, let us not forget the unique challenges faced by our veteran students. Let us continue to support and advocate for their mental health needs, ensuring that they have the resources and support they need to thrive. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of our veteran students and honor their service to our country.

Thank you to all our veteran students for your service and sacrifice. Ventura College is proud to be your partner in education and support.

Please visit the Ventura College Veterans Resource Center webpage for more information on services and support available to veterans.

Ventura College