Grand Rapids — As a former soldier in the U.S. Army, Matt Langton is looking forward to spending his final year at Grand Rapids Community College with a space on campus designed for student veterans.
“It’s great because this wasn’t something that I had when I started, but now I have it my final year and I can help impact future students’ experiences at GRCC,” Langton said.
The new Veterans Center in Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall is aimed at connecting students who served in the military with resources to be successful and a place to call their own on campus.
Langton serves as the lead guide for the new Veteran2Veteran program through Peer Advisors for Veteran Education, providing peer support and resources for student veterans on college campuses and helping them transition through college.
“A lot of new students who are just out of service and back in school have a hard time feeling a part of the school community,” Langton said. “It speaks volumes of GRCC that they want their student veterans to feel welcomed and appreciated for their service.”
GRCC students, staff and leaders were joined by U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, to cut the ribbon on the new center and celebrate with other student veterans.
Having previously served in Afghanistan as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves, Meijer referred to the center as the “perfect example of how we can stand with (student veterans), and help them build on the skills they’ve already learned in their service to thrive long into the future.”
“By showing veterans they are welcome when they come to GRCC to pursue their education, we’re helping them set themselves up for the next stage of their lives,” Meijer said.
The U.S. Education Department awarded GRCC a grant in January to create the center, which will serve a single point of contact, connecting veterans with campus resources, including financial aid, advising and disability support.
‘A lot of new students who are just out of service and back in school have a hard time feeling a part of the school community.’— Matt Langton, GRCC student and veteran
GRCC President Bill Pink said, “Our college has always been a place where student veterans are welcomed and supported. This new Veterans Center will allow us to take this service to the next level.
Army veteran Patrick Coleman will serve as the new veterans success coordinator and oversee the center. He hopes the center will “provide a safe haven and some peace” for veterans to come and “be themselves”.
“Today’s ribbon cutting is not about the dedication of the center, but it’s about our dedication and service to the student veterans we will serve,” Coleman said. “Most veterans, past or present, come back or come through GRCC with some trauma. My hope is students will know they have a place to call their own.”
He added, “From the time student veterans click “apply” to GRCC, to the time they graduate, we want to walk alongside them and make sure the Veterans Center is there for them.”