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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.
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.
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.