Veterans' Services deserves better
Keeping the Faith - Faith Elder
Veterans day has passed, bringing a time to celebrate and honor those in our community who have served.
But here at Highline, our yearly salute may be overshadowed by our continuing negligence in supporting our student veterans.
Tucked away in Building 6, the Veterans' Services office is a central hub for more than 220 student veterans. The office is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Friday by appointment. This office is also the workplace of Veteran's Services Specialist Kendall Evans.
"Student vets can drop in any time they need anything, even if its just to talk," he said. "We're here to help."
While Veterans' Services is where those claiming federal education, benefits get help filing their paperwork, it is also where they can be connected with tutors, counseling, internships, and community programs. These programs are intended to help veterans successfully transition to be students.
"We try to stay connected with the community because it helps people transition," said Evans. "The military teaches you to be a soldier, but it doesn't teach you how to be a civilian."
As the office provides much needed services, it is a safe space for veterans to come together. Student veterans use computers, get help with homework, or just hang out.
"They can come in any time," said Evans. "For us it's one team, one fight." Although all of these services
and programs are well supported due to their positive influence, the Veterans' Services Office has been facing considerable challenges. As programs have grown to serve the needs of student veterans, the office does not have enough room to continue to be a space for student veterans to gather.
As most of the office is occupied by workspaces and cubicles, it is clear that this room was not intended to be a gathering place. A couple of chairs line the wall by the entrance, partially blocking the one walk- way. But since this office offers the support that it does to such a large number of people, this space is no longer adequate.
"There are days where I'll have guys sitting on the floor because there aren't any more chairs and there is no room for more," said Evans.
The lack of space is also affecting the students' ability to
express themselves freely. Since the office areas and the waiting area are hardly separated, volume and language have become issues for those trying to work, with student veterans being asked to quieter.
"Sometimes I'll have to ask them to quiet down," said Evans. "It's hard because being loud is just how we are and how we communicate."
As the number of student veterans has declined over re- cent years, this issue of the Veterans' Services office has been set aside many times. When the issue resurfaced, proposed solutions ranged from moving the office to Building 2 to a new, separate Veterans' Services building, but nothing has changed.
So as we continue thanking our service men and women with ceremonies and parades, it is time to finally take some action. Veterans make up a small portion of the Highline community, requiring support in order to meet their needs. Be aware of the issues student veterans face, even if you have never served. By working to improve their environment and opportunities, we can honor those who have sacrificed for us.
Faith Elder is Opinion Editor of the Thunderword.
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Keeping the Faith