Local veterans joined students and community members at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom on Nov. 8 to celebrate the college’s commitment to student veterans and the critical role of education in building community and strength.
The event included the signing of an agreement between the Pierce College District and the state Department of Veterans Affairs, in which Pierce pledged its commitment to serving the unique needs of veteran students. It also marked the grand opening of Pierce’s new Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success.
“This is a military community and we know our veterans are at its core,” said Pierce College District Chancellor Michele Johnson. “We are here to join with you so that you can be successful.”
The partnership agreement with the state Department of Veterans Affairs was signed by Johnson and special guests Mike Gregoire, Vietnam veteran and husband of Gov. Chris Gregoire, and John E. Lee, director of the state Department of Veterans Affairs. The Partners for Veteran Supportive Campuses pledge makes official Pierce’s longstanding commitment to student veterans and their families.
“Almost 10 years ago, we entered into war and this (agreement) is a manifestation of our commitment to getting it right,” said Lee, later adding, “God bless Pierce College for all they continue to do for our veterans and our military families.”
Following the formal signing ceremony, visitors were invited to visit the brand new Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, located on the fourth flour of the Cascade building at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood. It is the result of a three-year, $364,000 grant from the federal Department of Education to provide veteran students a designated space to gather and learn, a person to help with one-on-one attention, and services to help them be successful in higher education and transition into civilian life.
Pierce College serves a large number of veteran students. Last year, the Fort Steilacoom campus alone served 1,084 veteran students. One of those is Joe Jackson, who recently formed the Fort Steilacoom Corps of Veterans, a student club on campus. He medically retired from the Army in December 2008, but said he wasn’t prepared for civilian life before finding himself at Pierce College.
“Pierce College is the perfect place for any veteran to start or continue their education,” he said. “I don’t think myself or any of the other student veterans could have found a better place to call home.”
For more information on veterans’ services at Pierce College, call Jennifer Cooke at (253) 964-6592.