To ensure that prospective student veterans know that university support for their community goes to the top, Cal Poly Pomona held a special program for veterans on Friday, March 23.
Approximately 60 veterans attended the ‘Every Day is Veterans Day’ event, which highlighted the veteran community on campus as well as the resources and services available at the Veterans Resource Center (VRC), which is recognized as one of the best in the California State University system.
University President Soraya M. Coley welcomed attendees with remarks that included insights into her experience as a military spouse and her understanding of issues relating to transitioning from military to civilian life.
“In every one of our eight colleges, there are opportunities to use your talents and interests to follow your dream,” advised Coley. “You know what it’s like to be focused and achieve your mission. But, be sure that you take advantage of a few of our 331 clubs on campus. We are here to support you.”
Former Marine Sergeant Vincent Marsala II, ’17 civil engineering, shared his story of success in the U.S. Marine Corps and the circuitous journey towards his degree with candor and humor. Like some of the student panelists, he talked about his initial desire to be a “regular” student and not identified as a veteran and admitted to only opening VRC emails with the subject line “Priority Registration.”
However, when his grades started dropping as he worked 40 hours per week downtown, he ran out of money for school and lost his priority registration, he finally went to the VRC to see if they could help.
“The Veterans Center filled a void that I didn’t know was there,” said Marsala. “They helped with financial aid, tutoring resources, resume workshops, but the people kept me there.”
One piece of advice he shared was, “You will fail more than you think, but you can do it. I failed nine classes but took them again until I got them right. Never quit. It took me seven years to get through college, but I did it, got my degree and have my dream job as a civil engineer working on the Rams/Chargers NFL stadium in Inglewood.” In 2017, he was the university’s Veteran of the Year.
Rounding out the program, a panel of student veterans talked about their experiences at Cal Poly Pomona and offered practical tips on issues from the best strategies for registering for their first round of classes to schedules that avoid the worst commuter parking crunch times and how to build support networks.
Cristian Ramirez, a junior economics major who is serving in the Air Force Reserve, assured the prospective students that, “Anytime you need something, the VRC is there. I come to school like it’s a job, do class and go home. And, I’m married so I have responsibilities at home. But I’ve still made friends. You exchange numbers and help each other out.”
Graduate student Mayra Chan (’17, health and nutrition); Sergio Flores, a senior civil engineering major; and Rich Jordan, a junior business major with a human resources focus; were also part of the panel.
“It was great to have current students give their input,” said Jose Torres, who served in the Army and currently attends Riverside City College. “We got to hear current students talking unfiltered about how the campus works for them and that was really helpful.”
As of fall 2017, there are 425 student veterans enrolled classes at Cal Poly Pomona.