Spartanburg Community College launches program to assist student veterans

jennifer.arnold@shj.comJune 12, 2014 

— Spartanburg Community College, already designated a “military friendly school,” has found another way to assist veterans in getting educations.

About 25 instructors and faculty have received training in the Star program, to better assist student veterans facing issues like deployment, transitioning to college or new careers after serving in the field, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and combat-related issues. Another 15 faculty will receive the training later this month.

“While the Star volunteers will not be expected to solve the problems of our military students, they will serve as an empathetic ear, offer helpful resources and provide any assistance they can in terms of SCC support services,” said college spokeswoman Christina Vandiver.

The program is similar to the Green Zone program at other colleges and universities. Earlier this year, faculty at University of South Carolina Upstate received Green Zone training.

Those who complete Star training will receive a star icon to place near their office or classroom, designating to student veterans that it is a safe zone to talk about military-related issues without judgement.

The training not only touched on issues facing veterans, but what their “support units” — family members, spouses and children — may go through as well, said Ron Jackson, SCC’s vice president of student affairs. Jackson spearheaded the Star training.

“Members of the veteran’s support unit serve a lifetime but often aren’t recognized like the service member,” Jackson said.

Jackson said SCC hopes to soon partner with other local entities, such as counseling services or veterans organizations, to assist student veterans and make them aware of resources available to them.

About 350 SCC students receive some type of veteran benefits, Vandiver said. SCC was recently named a “2015 Military Friendly School” by G.I. Jobs Magazine, for the fifth consecutive year.

The college received the honor because it allows military students to return to college without penalty after deployment, offers evening, weekend and online courses, offers regionally and nationally accredited associate’s degrees and certificates and has a veterans specific webpage, Vandiver said.

SCC is also a member of the Service Members Opportunity Colleges Consortium and offers veterans benefits through the New G.I. Bill to active duty personnel and reservists.

In another effort to recognize student veterans, SCC provided red, white and blue chords to military personnel and veterans at graduation this year, Vandiver said.

Toby Ballew, a U.S. Navy retiree, graduated from SCC’s automated manufacturing technology program in May. He praised the college’s efforts in assisting veterans and the recent addition of the Star program. He said it’s important for instructors to understand what student vets may be going through and keep the line of communication open, which the Star program encourages.

“Most vets coming back now from deployment are facing issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, or like me, having to find another skill,” Ballew said. “A couple of my teachers were veterans themselves, so they definitely understood.”

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