Del Mar College … Proudly Serving Those Who Served With Pride

Del Mar College kicked off weeklong Veterans Day observances on Nov. 7 with a Heroes Memorial Flag Garden where students, faculty and staff planted different colored flags with names of family and friends who served or are currently serving with one of the U.S. Armed Forces.

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(CORPUS CHRISTI, TX) –– Service men and women with the U.S. Armed Forces, and their families, make sacrifices every day. And every Veterans Day, which was Nov. 11 this year, the nation specifically recognizes veterans for their service to our country.


For Del Mar College (DMC), recognizing student veterans’ service comes with a year-round motto, “Proudly serving those who served with pride.”

“At Del Mar College, we’re committed to valuing every learner equally,” said Tammy Micallef, director of the DMC Veterans Center and retired U.S. Navy Chief with 21 service years of her own. “We believe all military service members, dependents and veterans are vital to our college’s mission of providing access to quality education, workforce preparation and lifelong learning for student and community success.”

In fact, the College has adopted a Military Community Covenant that pledges Del Mar’s support for students who have served and for their families. The initiative links local education and business partners in supporting service members and military installations. After all, the South Texas Coastal Bend Region that DMC serves is home to Naval Air Stations Corpus Christi and Kingsville and the Corpus Christi Army Depot, the nation’s largest helicopter repair facility.

“Military service members and veterans are a significant portion of our enrollment,” added Micallef.

Student veterans, their dependents and active duty members who receive Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits represent annually nearly 15% of the College’s credit enrollment, or about 1,400 students. Currently, statewide figures are unavailable for student veterans enrolled at higher education institutions, but such tracking is in development according to Texas Association of Community College officials.

U.S. Air Force veteran and DMC employee Carlos Garanzuay is credited with the conception and design of a lapel pin that faculty and staff wear so student veterans can identify employees who have also served and are available for mentoring.

For student veterans accessing their benefits, Veterans Services at Del Mar College is not just an office. It’s a place where veterans help veterans take the next step in their education.

Susan Quinn, who graduated this summer from DMC with an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science with an emphasis on Computer Information Systems, Network Administration and Information Security, first enrolled at Del Mar in 1976 to study computer technology. Quinn then joined the U.S. Navy in 1977 “because it wasn’t just a job, it was an adventure,” she said.

Quinn spent the next five years working with flight simulators training pilots how to fly jets before separating from the Navy as a Petty Officer Second Class and going to work for Halliburton in Houston. She moved back to Corpus Christi to take care of her parents and re-enrolled at Del Mar in spring 2013.

“Thanks to Del Mar’s Veterans Services and its helpful staff, I accessed resources I needed to be successful in school while still helping my parents,” Quinn said. “I learned about benefits, such as the Hazelwood Act, and secured funds to help me pay for school as well as other funds to assist with paying my bills. Veterans Services staff looked out for me, so without those benefits, I wouldn’t have been able to complete my college degree.”

Since 2010, Del Mar has dedicated two Veteran Services Offices and two Veterans Resource Centers—one on each main campus––and created a full-time “director” position as well as added four full-time, three part-time and multiple work-study employees to support the needs of student veterans.

Del Mar College employee and U.S. Air Force veteran Carlos Garanzuay visits with U.S. Navy student veteran Marisa Washington in one of the Veteran Resource Centers. Mentoring is an important component of the commitment DMC extends toward student veterans every day.

Micallef noted, “The Veteran Services Offices and Veterans Resource Centers represent the College’s commitment to making student veterans as proud of their educational achievements as DMC is of their service to our country,” adding that Quinn even served as a work-study student while attending Del Mar.

Since 2012, Del Mar’s Veterans Resource Centers have logged 15,000 visits from veterans seeking assistance with registration, benefits processing, tutoring, counseling and student success support. Full-time staff offer computer assistance with VA processing in a relaxed lounge environment much like the setting the USO provides active military stateside and around the world.

Earlier this year, Southern Business and Development magazine recognized DMC as a “Top Texas Community College Delivering Workforce Training.” Former U.S. Marine and student Julio Wilmot’s preparation through Del Mar’s noncredit offerings was highlighted during a recognition celebration.

Wilmot said that he became interested in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Department of Transportation regulations after working in the oilfield as a pump operator and crew leader before the oil industry collapsed. He then worked as a contractual worker for refineries, where safety is very important and strictly observed.

After a long period employed as a “working man,” Wilmot realized that no matter how hard he worked, he would only make the “norm.”

“I don’t like normal, so I decided to start making decisions that lead to progress, and that meant school,” he noted. “I started taking every course I could at Del Mar College that would take me in the direction of becoming a professional.”

Wilmot earned five workforce credentials, including his Class A Commercial Drivers License through DMC’s Transportation Training Services truck driving program and certifications through the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and OSHA programs offered through the DMC Workforce Development and Corporate Services Division.

Currently, he’s enrolled in the College’s 18-week fast-track Process Technology and Instrumentation Program offered by the division, a counter-part to the two-year degree offered on the credit side of the house.

“Life is full of decisions, and I’m proud that I decided to go to Del Mar College for my training and education,” Wilmot noted. “The courses I’ve taken have molded me to the path I want to be on.”


Recently, Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families named Del Mar College as one of the top three colleges in the nation providing veteran pathways to the regional workforce.

Among other College initiatives that have served DMC student veterans are:

  • $100,000 Wal-Mart Foundation grant with 170 veterans enrolled in workforce training resulting with 126 participants earning marketable skills.
  • $175,000 Texas Workforce Commission Veterans and Industry Partnership (VIP) grant to train veterans for jobs in the petrochemical industry with 20 participants completing this preparation in the first six months.
  • nationally accredited fast track NCCER program providing veterans free training for up to two “stackable” credentials in areas of construction or maintenance trades.
  • College Credit for Heroes: a collaboration with Central Texas College to translate military experience to equivalent college course credit.
  • Kognito: training for DMC faculty and staff to understand challenges veterans face when transitioning from military to academic life.
  • advocacy: the College’s Veteran Center director has served on the Rulemaking Committee that amended the Hazelwood Act and proposed the later adopted formula for conversion of Continuing Education Units to semester hour credit.
  • mentoring programs using faculty, staff and peer-to-peer pairing, which includes a College-designed lapel pin for faculty and staff veterans that allows student veterans to identify at a glance those employees who have also walked in their boots.
  • DMC celebrating student veterans with graduate receptions, honor cords and “Top Student Veteran” awards.

These and other initiatives have earned Del Mar College the designation as a “Military Friendly School” for five years by Victory Media and a “Top School” for four years by Military Advanced Education and Transition Guide.

“I believe that ALL Texas community colleges share a common commitment to our veterans,” noted Micallef, who also has served as president of the Texas Association of Collegiate Veterans Officials for the past three years. “I’m convinced that Texas community colleges are the catalyst to achieving 60 by30 Texas [60X30TX] goals set by the state with student veterans contributing significantly to the workforce we’re building.”

Del Mar College salutes and thanks our student veterans and all veterans for their dedication and service to this country this Veterans Day. The College also will continue to “proudly serve those who served with pride” year-round.


Featured Member: Ashlee Estlack

ashlee-jpgMeet Ashlee Estlack, TACCM’s board secretary and Clarendon College’s Chief of Staff.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

I honestly look forward to coming to work each day. I love what I’m doing right now. I get to sit in with the senior staff and advise the president, I am able tell the story of our school and our students and brag about our successes, and I get to be part of something that is bettering the lives of our students and making our communities stronger and more successful. I believe community colleges are the best first step for students seeking training or a degree – and finding ways to spread that message to others is the best part of each day.

What’s the most rewarding project you’ve tackled in the past year?

Clarendon College completed our SACS Accreditation visit last October and received word in June that we were approved for re-accreditation. I had never been involved with a SACS visit or QEP before, but it was an extremely rewarding experience. I enjoyed putting together the marketing materials and activities for the QEP and making sure that the visiting team was taken care of while they were here. Our team worked together and in a very short period of time made sure that we were not only prepared for the visit, but also were approved for re-accreditation. I’ve never been so proud of my coworkers – it took everyone to make the review a success and together we made it happen.

What’s your superpower?

Can multi-tasking be a superpower? Or maybe making something out of nothing? As the Chief of Staff at a small, rural college I wear many, many hats. I serve as the President’s right hand person, handle all of the college’s PR and marketing needs, work with HR and employee benefits, keep up with travel and facility scheduling, and head up most event planning on campus – not to mention “other duties as assigned.” And all of this is on a budget that doesn’t increase from year to year so I have to be creative and make dollars stretch further than they ever have. No two days at work are ever the same, and if I wasn’t busy I’d probably go a little bit crazy. While it is completely chaotic most days, I really wouldn’t change what I do for anything.

What’s something other TACCM members probably don’t know about you?

My family raises show chickens. I have silkie cochins that are named after the cast of Grey’s Anatomy – McDreamy, Meredith, The Chief, etc. We (my kids, the in-laws, and my hubby and I) show the chickens at the Tri-State Fair in Amarillo every year and this year my daughter’s white cochin won best of show – earning her a pretty swanky belt buckle and bragging rights over her brother and two boy cousins.

You hit shuffle on your music collection. What song pops up?

Probably something by Michael Buble – right now I’m enjoy his new song “Nobody but Me” and his version of “The Very Thought of You”. I have pretty eclectic taste in music so you just never know what will pop up – there’s a chance it could be something random from Merle Haggard, Justin Timberlake, or maybe John Mellencamp.

If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor, and why?

Again, after reading her book, I’d have to pick Dana Perino. I actually met Tony Snow while I was a student reporter in college, and I was completely mesmerized with his experience as a White House Press Secretary – this is probably where my interest in that position started. After he resigned for health reasons, Dana was named as his replacement. I had the opportunity to hear her speak last year and she spoke on never being afraid to move for the right position, building trust with your team, and that love and family aren’t career killers. She has proven that if you work hard enough you can do anything – she was a girl from a ranch in Wyoming who went on to advise the President of the United States. I admire what she has accomplished, and that she seems to be humble and down to earth after it all.

Last book you read that you couldn’t put down?

Dana Perino’s bio “And the good news is…” I’ve always dreamed of being a press secretary – I enjoy watching “The West Wing” and would love to be CJ Cregg. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Dana’s life pre and post White House, and she has excellent advice for young women starting a career and trying to find their way.