Above from left, State Sen. Benjamin Downing, Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans' Services
Coleman Nee, Brian Nelson ’15, former MCLA President Mary K. Grant and North Adams Mayor
Richard Alcombright at the ribbon cutting for MCLA’s Veterans’ Resource Center.
Veterans’ Resource Center offers support, connections
As a veteran of the United States Navy, Brian Nelson ’15 of Shrewsbury, Mass., is familiar with the needs of students who have served in the Armed Forces, and brought forward an idea to campus officials in the summer of 2013 to create a veteran’s organization on campus.
Fast forward to last year, as MCLA cut the ribbon for its Veterans’ Resource Center.
“Resources from campus departments were needed to bring the idea to life,” said Nelson (pictured right). “The outpouring support from facility brought the Center together faster than any of us would have thought.”
Nelson explained, “The Center is important to be involved with because, as veterans, college is a different experience than for the traditional 18- to 22-year-old student. The Center gives me – and my peers who are student veterans – a comfortable place to come together.”
Besides providing a space to hang out between classes and get homework done, the Center is a place where student veterans may find resources available to them – both on campus and in the community.
Monthly meetings typically are held in the Center on the second Monday of each month. Then, representatives from departments such as the Center for Student Success and Engagement (CSSE), Financial Aid, the Bursar’s Office, and the Campus Center meet with student veterans.
“We have lunch and discuss any issues we have,” said Nelson. “Professors who are veterans also stop by and hang out.”
The group includes some two dozen veterans, as well as 12 dependents of veterans who are using their parents’ benefits to attend college at MCLA.
The Veterans’ Resource Center is important to MCLA, Nelson said, because it is becoming a place where the campus community and area residents can give back to those who served America.
Last fall during First Days, students held the “9/11 Community Service Necessities Drive” in support of local veterans. Sponsored by the Massachusetts Service Alliance, the initiative now is part of MCLA’s annual service programs. Members of the community were asked to consider purchasing and contributing toiletry items such as shampoo, soaps and toothpaste.
Being older and serving in the military gives student veterans a different outlook on current events than a younger student who has yet to venture out into the world on their own may have, Nelson said. In addition, “Many student veterans have families and full-time jobs.”
“The Veterans’ Resource Center also shows the commitment that MCLA has for the state’s fastest-growing student population – veterans,” Nelson said.
Enrolled in MCLA’s business administration program with a marketing concentration, Nelson is considering work as a sales representative for the beer industry or something related to the automotive industry.
“When it comes to prospective students, I look toward veterans,” he said. “With the downsizing of the military, the country is seeing an increase of veterans being pushed into the work force or college. MCLA is a great choice for veterans because of the Center and the support from staff.”