In 2009, then-Governor Pat Quinn mandated that all schools in higher education provide a point of contact person for incoming military veterans to talk about their concerns in seeking a degree or certificate at their college or university. This one mandate is now the norm for all colleges and universities to handle other incoming new students the same way: first-generation college students, Latinx, Black/African American, and dual credit high school students.
As the military veterans' point of contact at Elgin Community College, I was transferred from the financial aid office to the career development office, and the transformation for our student veterans is more than amazing!
ECC began working with the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), a non-profit organization developed by several higher education groups that allow members to join as a support group for veterans to be successful and graduate with college degrees. The Veterans Higher Education Affinity Group (VHEAG), which includes many colleges and universities within the state of Illinois, meets monthly to compare best practices and hear the latest of what changes are taking place for student veterans' academic success, not only in Illinois but what other states are doing to enhance the success of their student veterans. ECC has been working with CAEL and has been a VHEAG member since 2012. Our VHEAG group worked closely with Student Veterans of America (SVA) to help pass The Forever GI Bill into law through CAEL.
Previously, veterans had to use their Post-9/11 Gi Bill® within 15 years of their last 90-day period of active-duty service. So, in 2015, veterans started working on changing this requirement, and it was signed into law in 2017 and became effective in August 2020. Now, a veteran who left the military after January 1, 2013, no longer has only 15 years to use their benefits. They have forever to use their benefits!
Here at ECC, we have many resources specifically dedicated to our veteran students to help them be successful. ECC assigned staff members to assist our student veterans are as follows:
- Point of Contact – Anitra King, email: email@example.com
- Admissions – Shirley Bell, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Academic Advisor – Tiffany Bruno, email: email@example.com
- VA Certifying Official – Samantha D'Alessandro, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ECC supports all students' academic success but has taken additional steps to show that veterans returning to school is a top priority. Being a part of and witnessing our veteran students’ success is important and rewarding. We are partners in their journey to new and exciting careers. Along with being available and listening, showing respect for their next steps is also key to their success. College is a place to find your likes and pursue your passions, and having resources to assist you eases fears of failing at your attempts.
I enjoy my work with student veterans because the conversations are always honest. I have been working with student veterans since 2009, and I know that establishing ECC’s Veterans Resource Center was important to the student veterans, but it was also crucial to the military community. The center is a place to come and study and have an open dialog with other student veterans. In my 22 years at ECC, I’ve been rewarded with many long-lasting relationships with students and co-workers. I look forward to continuing to provide outstanding resources for military-connected students and families through the support we offer to those who have given us so much.
For more information on ECC’s Veterans Services, visit https://elgin.edu/admissions/veterans-services/.
-Anitra King, MS, Career and Student Veteran Success Specialist
ECC is designated by G.I. Jobs Magazine ® as a "Military Friendly" college for veterans and service members. ECC also earned the "Military Friendly Spouse School" award in 2019.
ECC is a Chapter Member of S.A.L.U.T.E. VETERANS NATIONAL HONOR SOCIETY, and as of June 2021- ECC is excited to have 29 S.A.L.U.T.E. inductees.