Berkshire Community College (BCC) celebrated the grand opening of the college's new Veterans Lounge. The event, part of BCC's Veterans Awareness Week activities, was attended by members of BCC's Student Veterans Alliance as well as Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans' Affairs Coleman Nee, Pittsfield Mayor Daniel Bianchi and members of the Berkshire Delegation.
The opening of the Veterans Lounge comes nearly three years after the creation of BCC's Student Veterans Alliance (SVA), a group formed in September 2010 by student veterans who wanted to connect and network with other veterans on campus. The Veterans Lounge, a gathering place for BCC's community of veterans, is a quiet place to study, eat lunch, access a computer, or just take a break between classes.
"Massachusetts leads the nation in veterans' benefits and services," said Secretary Nee. "Educating our veterans and improving the transition to civilian life is a duty we take very seriously here in the Commonwealth. The opening of the Veterans Lounge is a great example of maximizing our state, local and private resources to ensure we continue to provide the finest services to our veterans. I applaud President Ellen Kennedy and her staff at Berkshire Community College for recognizing the needs of veterans and providing this fantastic space."
The Veterans Lounge, as well as the addition of John Herrera, a part-time staff assistant (Veterans Affairs), was funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Community Colleges & Workforce Development Transformation Agenda (MCCWDTA).
Herrera, a former BCC student, is a retired veteran who spent four years with the Marine Corps and 26 years with the U.S. Coast Guard. In his new role, he works directly with BCC student veterans to help them make the transition from military service to higher education so that they may have a positive and successful college experience. In addition, he helps student veterans navigate such processes as registering and filing for financial aid as well as military benefits and services. (Note: a separate press release announcing Herrera's position is available upon request or at www.berkshirecc.edu under News.)
"This is a great day for BCC's student veterans," said Ellen Kennedy, president of BCC. "Our veterans enrich our campus community by bringing invaluable experience and knowledge. BCC is dedicated to providing support to our student veterans so that their experience here is as positive as possible. Our hope is that the opening of our Veterans Lounge, coupled with the addition of a dedicated Veterans Services staff assistant who understands the challenges of transitioning from the military to higher education, will provide them with the resources, support and advocacy that will help them fulfill their dreams."
BCC's SVA, which currently has 15 members, meets twice a month and works to help and educate students, faculty and staff on a variety of issues affecting veterans, fundraises for veterans in need, and plans and implements a Veterans Awareness Week.
Representatives from BerkshireWorks, an organization that works to provide a comprehensive system of employment-focused programs and services for businesses, job seekers, workers, and employers throughout Berkshire County., were also in attendance. The organization, also opening a Veterans Resource Room as a result of MCCWDTA funding, will hold an Open House on Nov. 19 at 11 a.m.
BCC and BerkshireWorks work closely to help assist veterans to find access to key services and successfully navigate the transition from military service to higher education and employment.
Additional coverage can be found within the following news features:
(You must be a TWC customer. Requires a TWC login to view the video.)
For more information about BCC's Veterans Services, visit www.berkshirecc.edu/veterans.