By Rachel Dimauro
On November 9th, 2016 Cumberland County College (CCC) held a grand opening and dedication for the new Veterans Resource Center on campus. Roughly twenty-five people were in attendance, including Veterans Certifying Official at CCC, Bill Reyes, Vice President of Academic Affairs Jacqueline Galbiati, and numerous other CCC employees. Alongside college officials, and employees, were New Jersey State Senator Jeff VanDrew, Congressman Frank Lobiando, and several other assemblymen, veterans, and veteran graduates of Cumberland County College.
The resource center has a lot to offer to veterans on campus, seeking an oasis far away from the stress of college. Every Monday and Thursday social workers and mental health councilors provide privet counseling to veterans in need. The center consists of six rooms—two to three are used as study room for the veterans, one serves as a lunchroom, and the others are used as offices. The veterans have access to computers, a printer, a microwave, a refrigerator, and every other accommodation you can imagine. When talking with Reyes, (one of the main brains behind this project), he shared with me one of the reasons for opening this center. “Obama had come out with the eight keys of veteran student success. . .,” he stated. “We were doing seven of them, except for one—which was having a dedicated space for veterans.”
This was the catalyze behind the concept to make a place of respite at the college, for veterans to come when necessary. Reyes shared his goal for the resource center, stating that, “My vision was to have a comprehensive space— not just a lounge, not just a place where they could just sit and watch TV. . . I also wanted to have a space that provided them with privet counseling services.”
Reyes himself is a veteran, so he understands firsthand what these individuals are going through—and the struggle to acclimate to civilian life. “It’s challenging to them sometimes; they don’t know this thing about going to college – they don’t know how it works. So that’s what I try to do, just try to help them to navigate the waters, and give them someone to talk to.” Art Students from Cumberland County College donated most of the artwork that adorns the walls. The emblems mounted on the entryway door were donated by Cumberland County College’s STEAM Works maker space in Bridgton New Jersey. Although it was a long process to go through, it’s not hard to spot the dedication and passion that went into establishing the center.
Passion not only from the employees, but from the students and community of Cumberland County. As Jeff Miller once said, “The willingness of America’s veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude.” What better way for CCC to show their gratitude, then to open a Veterans Resource Center. For more information, contact William Reyes at email@example.com, or use his direct line: 856-200-4659.