For Joann Jenkins, Moraine Valley Community College’s director of student services, helping veterans transition from combat to higher education is essential to veteran
“Not all veterans are the same just because they identify with a certain group,” Jenkins said. “We have the resources and support from the college to get to know our veterans and we make sure we’re there to make the transition back to higher education as smooth as possible.”
Moraine Valley is the third community college to win the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Veteran Education since Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Higher Education Veterans Service Act in 2009. Usually the award is given to four-year colleges and universities but this year Moraine’s commitment to veteran services didn’t go unrecognized.
Previous winners include Eastern Illinois University, College of DuPage, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Northern Illinois University, Western Illinois University and Southwestern Illinois College.
“Our student veterans are a very tight knit community and veterans are coming here because of word-of-mouth,” Jenkins said at the March 19 board meeting. “We constantly get calls and emails from veterans in Afghanistan who tell us they’re about to finish their deployment and they’re ready to start college.”
Not only has Gov. Quinn recognized the Palos Hill-based community college for their service to veterans, Senator Dick Durbin sent a congratulatory letter praising Moraine for “tireless commitment to the education of our nation’s veterans … you are helping to better the lives of those who risked their own for our country.”
Last month, Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs director Erica Borggren presented the award to Moraine president Sylvia Jenkins. College faculty, staff, student veterans and community members attended the event, including Moraine trustee Tom Cunningham, who has two servicemen in his family.
“Their military service is nothing to be taken for granted and it’s great to see that veterans are coming home and finally getting their due,” Cunningham said. “We’re able to do what we do because of what they do for us.”
Both Jenkins and student success and veterans affairs coordinator General McArthur, III have worked to create an innovative veterans orientation program, veterans resource center, priority registration for veterans and veteran benefit workshops.
Moraine has over 500 student veterans, some who travel over an hour to campus due to Moraine’s veteran services. Starting in April, Moraine will offer veterans a virtual veterans center designed to help veterans understand their benefits, course selections and other veteran-specific material.
“There is a certain respect that service members carry themselves,” Jenkins said. “You have to respect when they put on that uniform they have such a reverence and respect for what they do. They served their country and we’re here to serve them by making their transition as smooth as possible.”