Article, "LaGuardia Gives Veterans A New Start"

May 18, 2007 | In the News

For your information. Two stories about what CUNY is doing for returning veterans. The first story is from the Queens Tribune and is about what we are doing at LaGuardia Community College. The second story is from Crain’s NY Business and talks about what CUNY is doing overall. Great picture of Claudette Guinn. Thanks – Joe Bello
LaGuardia Gives Vets A New Start


Over the next two years, it is estimated that about 10,000 veterans and reservists will return to New York City from Iraq and Afghanistan, and LaGuardia Community College is preparing to salute them.

Determined to greet the returning veterans and reservists with open arms, LaGuardia Community College has received a $45,000 grant from CUNY to create an outreach and retention program for the veteran population. The LaGuardia Veterans Services Collaboration Initiative will provide a host of services to returning vets and reservists.

“LaGuardia Community College has about 100 veterans attending credited programs,” said Samuel Farrell, director of the college’s Veteran’s programs and the initiative. “That number has dropped from about 800 student veterans about 30 years ago. We feel that we should be prepared for the veterans returning from Iraq. Veterans are unique and we need to have some consolidated specialized services for them. We are trying to welcome them and to develop a support system for them.”

Farrell, who has been working at LaGuardia since 1971, said that there are no existing transitional service programs for veterans in New York City, and that LaGuardia is striving to fill that void.

The initiative will connect student veterans to government and community resources, and advise them on educational choices. It will also provide a support system within the school that will link them to the college’s academic, career, counseling, tutoring and mentoring services.

Among other services, the initiative will create a Web site for student veterans that will try to “help veterans maneuver their way through the CUNY system,” Farrell said. The initiative will also connect student veterans with each other and with faculty advisors so that they can learn about the benefits, like the GI Bill educational benefits, that they earned.

The program will recruit veterans at New York City veterans-service agencies as well as community-based organizations, such as the New York State Department of Veterans Affairs, the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs, the Veterans Outreach Centers, and the Borden Avenue Veterans Residence for homeless veterans.

“You have to use every opportunity possible—whether it’s at a veteran’s center or at a military base—to spread the word about this program,” Farrell said.

Farrell said that the program will also ask the veterans who are currently enrolled in the college to serve as recruiters.

“A large part of this program will be reaching out to veterans who are already attending this college,” Farrell said. “We will try to make contact with them to make them aware of the comprehensive services we offer so that we can help them feel more comfortable at the college. We will also try to have them sign up as tutors and mentors and to share their experiences with the incoming veterans.”

This initiative is designed to foster a type of student veteran community at LaGuardia, but bonding the student veteran community is not as simple as it seems. Firstly, LaGuardia is a community college, meaning that students are generally enrolled in the school for a short period of time, which makes it difficult to form lasting bonds among the student veteran population. Secondly, perhaps because of the unpopularity of the war in Iraq or because of the explosive nature of today’s political arena, many student veterans are reluctant to identify themselves as veterans.

“We are engaging the new veteran population, and we are hoping that by welcoming them, they would want to identify themselves as veterans and move back to the idea of being proud to be a veteran,” Farrell said. “I’m not entirely sure why some people don’t want to identify themselves as veterans, but I hope that with this new program, they will seek each other out and bond.”

The Veterans Services Collaboration Initiative has already begun reaching out to student veterans at LaGuardia Community College with a welcoming day for veterans and an orientation for faculty and staff members at the school. The initiative will officially launch April 19, 2007.

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