Some of the greatest legacies start on a blank page. The Veteran’s Resource Center at Cal Poly Pomona, now 10 years strong, began as a mere scribble on a piece of paper before it became the primary source of support and community for the campus’ military-affiliated students.
On Oct. 11 in front of the Student Services Building, Director of the Veterans Resource Center Elke Azpeitia, President Soraya M. Coley, Congresswoman Norma Torres and a host of faculty, staff, alumni and students, including the Dean of Students Jonathan Grady, Dr. Michael Ortiz, CPP President Emeritus and Betty Ortiz, Former CPP First Lady celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the VRC.
The VRC is an essential and powerful resource for student veterans, military dependents, faculty and staff at CPP. This semester, the center is supporting the academic and personal success of nearly 1,500 military-affiliated students, including veterans, servicemembers, and military dependents. They can get assistance with admissions, enrollment, military benefits and more by visiting the VRC, but many note that the sense of community it offers is the most valuable aspect of the center.
“A lot of us feel like we’re by ourselves when we go to school, and once we come to the VRC, it helps us feel like we belong,” said Jovan Santos, a junior in computer information systems and former Hospital Corpsman Second Class in the United States Navy.
President Coley agreed with this sentiment during her speech at the celebration: “For nearly a decade now, the Veterans Resource Center has been a source of support, it’s been a source of hope, it’s been a source of inspiration.”
Alumna Azpeitia graduated in 2011 with a Master of Public Administration. She opened the doors to the VRC on Oct. 4, 2012, in the now-demolished CLA building — an idea born from her thesis titled “A policy evaluation of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona’s Veterans Services Initiative.”
The thesis was key in understanding the gaps in veteran services at CPP. “When I did my assessment,” Azpeitia explained, “I identified areas in which there were challenges for the campus, and one of those was creating visibility for what was available. You can have services, but if students don’t know they exist, how do they access those services?”
Azpeitia noted how CPP’s approach to veteran services is unique. “Our campus has been very blessed to define and standardize what veteran services means for us, and we’ve done it in partnership with faculty and by completing assessments and research.”
The future of the center is brighter than ever. Azpeitia said the VRC is adding a new position to enhance student support, and more assessments are on the way to gauge what services need to be added or amended.
“We’ve come a long way. It’s not been easy, but it’s been something that we’ve done as a campus community,” Azpeitia shared.
To learn more or support the VRC, visit their website.