Parkland College named on Military Friendly Schools list

Humna Sharif

Staff Writer

Photo by Andrew T. Kurtenbach/Prospectus News

Photo by Andrew T. Kurtenbach/Prospectus News

Parkland College Veteran Services recently earned nationwide acclaim when the college was named on the 2015 Military Friendly Schools list. This list was compiled by Victory Media, which is a company that helps US Military personnel transition into civilian life and is owned by veterans. For three years in a row, Parkland has been holding on to its spot in this list, which goes to show that the veteran services provided at the college are up to the mark with nationwide standards.
The thing that makes Parkland stand out as a community college is the amount of thought that goes into each and everything it does. Veteran Services are no different than any other department, and a lot of effort is put into making the process for getting benefits and transitioning to civilian life easier for the veterans.
“We try to take a holistic approach to Veteran Services as we have so many of them. Most schools would just process veterans’ benefits, but here at Parkland, in addition processing veterans’ benefits we try to take care of every other aspect of veteran services as well,” Kristina Taylor, Veterans and Military Personnel Student Services Coordinator said.

Taylor explained that a big reason why Parkland has so many different services for veterans is because of the large amount of veterans that attend the college every semester.

“Most schools, especially community colleges, don’t have what we offer veterans’ here. These schools either have such a small population of veterans that they don’t bother or they just focus on one area,” Taylor said.

This trend is somewhat peculiar, as there isn’t a military base nearby, but the number of veterans at Parkland is almost as many as University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Data shows that Parkland College has more veterans than both Eastern Illinois University and Illinois State University.

The strategic placement of Parkland College with so many four year universities located close by and it’s the high ranking of U of I may be one of the reasons why Parkland has so many veteran students. On average Parkland serves about 350 veterans each semester.

Parkland College makes it easier for veterans to navigate to a civilian life; priority registration is available for veterans so they are the first ones who can register each semester before the rest of the student body. The office of Financial Aid and Veterans’ Services also works with the Admissions Office, evaluating military transcripts. Thus, military work can count as college credit. There is also a Student Veterans Organization on campus, which assists veterans with peer to peer networking, provides mutual support, and helps students get in contact with other outside veterans benefits.

Other services that make Parkland stand out, and takes the college’s reputation a step further as a military friendly school, include the Veterans’ Lounge located right next door from Office of Financial Aid and Veteran Services.

“Sometimes veterans have a difficult time being around a lot of people, so for them just having a space where they can get away is good, we also have free coffee and snacks available for them,” Taylor said.

The first Tuesday of every month Parkland invites an outside organization to come to the college and educate the veterans here about the benefits and services available for them on state or federal level. This aids veterans in understanding exactly what they are entitled to receive and also gives them a good insight as to what services to choose if they are eligible for more than one state or federal benefit.
The Leonard Nettnin scholarship provides much needed college funds to veteran students. If other veterans’ benefits and financial aid already cover their tuition then the full scholarship amount is refunded to the students and can be spent by veterans however they wish.

Special Counseling and Advising is also available to veterans. The Department of Counselling and Advising has four counselors devoted to veteran services. Veteran verification is done at counseling and advising to make sure that veteran students are on track and that they are choosing the right subjects to meet their majors’ requirements.

“Besides academic advising we also offer veterans short term counselling. Ideally a student can come here for about 6 sessions to work on issues that are affecting their academic success,” Dennis Cockrum, Veterans Academic Advisor and Counselor said “Post-traumatic stress is common for someone who has been a combat veteran, anxiety and relationship issues can also arise. This can impact someone ability to focus in school and be successful. We also work here at Parkland with veterans to help them with coping skills that are specific to their classroom.”
Last year Parkland College organized a two part Veteran Friendly training program for Faculty and staff members, at the end of which a completion certificate was awarded to those who had successfully participated. Parkland is also currently working on an online veteran friendly training program for the student body.

“It’s going to be a 30 minute interactive training session. Students’ responses to different situations will be recorded and there will be feedback for correct or incorrect responses. At the end of the session a certificate will be provided to the student which can be printed out,” Cockrum commented.

By spring semester 2015, Parkland will have finished developing the training and then instructors will be asked to put the veteran friendly training session on their curriculum for extra credit.

“We try to educate people enough so we can be considerate towards veterans and to make veterans feel more comfortable in the college environment.  If an unpleasant situation ever arises on campus and there was a veteran involved then those in charge of handling the students would know enough to approach the scenario in a sensitive way,” Cockrum said.

National Veterans’ Day takes place on November 11 every year. This year Parkland College Veterans Day Ceremony will take place in the college center at 10 a.m. Garret Anderson, former Infantryman in the U.S. Army, was a student at Parkland College. Anderson majored in Criminal Justice and graduated from Illinois State University in May of 2010. Anderson will be giving a speech at the Veterans’ Day Ceremony.

To find out more information on Parkland College’s Veteran Services, visit http://www.parkland.edu/studentservices/veterans.