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PITTSBURG -- Looking back when she first enrolled as a student at Los Medanos College, veteran and PTSD survivor Brenda Cato remembers how hard it was to adjust to attending school and wading through all the programs available to veterans. At the time, there was not a central location at the college to find help and resources for veterans. All that has changed now that LMC has opened the doors to the new Veteran Resource Center on campus.
"Being on campus the first day was overwhelming," Cato said. "So I was honored when the college asked me to be part of a planning committee last summer to help decide what was needed in a resource center for veterans."
Cato is the current president of the Student Veterans Club at LMC. She was part of a group of veterans and staff administrators, as well as the Sentinels of Freedom Scholarship Foundation who worked on putting together a special area where veterans interested in attending college could go and get information for services specifically available to them.
"I appreciated that they included our concerns before opening the center," Cato said.
LMC is the first community college in Contra Costa County to offer a center where veterans are given resources and support. The other colleges in the system are expected to follow suit.
Cato explained that without having a resource center on campus she was forced to go outside of the area to get the help she needed. Sometimes that included as going as far as Oakland, which for a single mother with two children trying to go to school and hold down a job, was a lot of extra work.
"Now all I have to do is stop by the center while I'm on campus," she said.
As a veteran with PTSD, Cato said she understands all to well how making a change and going to college can be a hard adjustment to some. She hopes that those veterans, who come and use the services at the center, will also take the time to use the center as a place to hang out and meet with people like themselves who understand what they are going through.
The staff at the LMC Veterans Resource Center will include a veterans' counselor, education benefit certifying officials and work-study student veterans. Services will include access to computers with printing, copying service faxing, financial aid information and application assistance and referrals to off-campus community veteran services and resources with dedicated meeting space on-site as needed.
Cato is delighted that the center was able to open so soon -- the grand opening was held Thursday -- especially because early registration for the fall has already begun for veterans and the center offers support and easy access to academic counseling. Registration continues until the end of May.
LMC continues to offer a variety of services to support veterans' students, including dedicated academic counselors, Blue Star, priority, counseling appointments and priority registration for eligible veterans.
For more information about the Los Medanos College Veterans Resource Center and Veterans Services, see the LMC website www.losmedanos.edu/veterans.