Coming together to support veterans

By Leila Erlandson

The end of funding wasn’t the end of one college’s drive to support student veterans.

In December, Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) was forced to end its Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) program due to a loss of funding. The program had served thousands of veterans and their families at the college over the past 47 years.

In fact, the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area is home to more than 160,000 military veterans. Within this population, 43,000 have limited income and are often unable to access military G.I. Bill education benefits for themselves or members of their families.

Recognizing the significant contributions of the veterans support services at MCTC, students, faculty and staff came together to take action. The result: a one-year pilot veteran’s initiative that combines financial aid, enrollment and support services.

“Our veterans protect our lives, liberties and freedom through their service to our country,” MCTC Dean of Students Becky Nordin said. “Sustaining support programming for veterans and their families at MCTC is one small way of giving back. It helps break down barriers and opens the doors to college and opportunity for our community members who served and their families.”

New support and referral services available to veterans and their families at MCTC through the new initiative will include:

Financial Aid. Current and prospective students will receive one-on-one support in completing their FAFSA so they can maximize their benefits. Additionally, staff members will emphasize educating participants about the importance of financial literacy and minimizing reliance on loans in order to avoid default.

College Enrollment. MCTC staff will recruit veterans and their families to the college and assist them in enrolling, selecting classes and identifying campus resources tailored to their needs.

Support Services. Thoughtful, coordinated and well-planned activities, including FYST classes, will be tailored to increase persistence, academic skills, program completion and overall success. Staff will also ensure mental health needs are addressed and outside services are easily accessible to veterans and their families including employment, job counseling, transitional housing, financial planning and more.

Increasing emotional and mental fortitude

“In the past two years, I’ve testified at the State House Education Committee for student life fees, increased civic engagement by hosting roundtable discussions with local representatives and I’ve grown more than 1,000 pounds of produce with MCTC’s Urban Farm Collective, which was subsequently distributed to more than 500 students in need,” said MCTC Student Senate President Charles Karter. “I mastered my career and leadership skills and fully engaged in my community.”

Karter is majoring in CNC machining, business management and entrepreneurship at MCTC.

“None of these things would have been possible if I hadn’t launched my educational career in MCTC’s VUB program. VUB gave me the emotional and mental fortitude I needed to succeed at MCTC,” Karter added.

The college hopes to receive additional support for its new veterans programming from the Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs Support Our Troops and Minnesota State Innovative Grants.
“Our veterans need our support and our state needs their valuable contributions to our growing workforce demands,” President Sharon Pierce said. “This important program provides critical support for our military service members. I look forward to following this program and its results over the next year.”

Read more about the program here, and then sound off at LinkedIn.

Leila Erlandson

is a writer with Minneapolis Community and Technical College.