Fresno State will be launching the Veterans Education Program, a program aimed to help local veterans adjust to civilian life and utilize Fresno State’s resources.
A flag ceremony, reception and open house to introduce the program will begin today at noon with a public reception in the Vintage Room followed by the presentation of colors by a joint Army and Air Force ROTC color guard at 2 p.m. The presentation will conclude with a open house through 3 p.m. at the program’s new classroom and office in Lab School, Room 1.
“The goal of the program— it’s really a transitional program specifically designed for returning veterans coming back from the war,” said Daniel Bernard, program coordinator for the Veterans Education Program
The program, which operates out of the Division of Continuing and Global Education, will be welcoming its first class in January.
“Our goal is to help facilitate what their goals are,” Bernard said.
The program aims to serve veterans that are returning from their service. Many times, Bernard said, the last academic class they had taken was in high school, which could have been a few years before. This causes some trepidation about coming back to school, as many may not know where to begin.
The program idea began when Scott Moore, the associate dean for the Division of Continuing and Global Education and Lynnette Zelezny, the associate provost, met a triple Purple Heart veteran. They were speaking with him and he explained that he felt he wasn’t smart enough to go back to college, Bernard said.
The experience broke their hearts, so they worked together to obtain a grant to start the program, Bernard said.
The start-up funding was provided by the California State University Commission of the Extended University. Additional funding was provided by Fresno State’s Office of the Provost and the Division of Continuing and Global Education. The program also receives support from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Some members of the Fresno community have come forward to support the program with donations. The first of these is Fresno State Alumni Air Force Capt. Ryan King. The second is New England Sheet Metal.
“We have a lot of veterans working at our company so it was a natural role for us to play,” said Robert Bell, chief operating officer for New England Sheet Metal.
Bell is an alumnus who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Fresno State where his graduate advisor was Moore. When Moore told him about the new veterans program, Bell jumped at the opportunity to help.
“We do try to give preference to veterans,” Bell said. “Quite frankly, we do owe it to them.”
Bell said his experience of working with veterans has been very positive. When veterans come back from service, they usually need a bit of “freshening up,” Bell said. What really attracted him to the program at Fresno State was that it would be accomplishing just that.
He finds veterans make trustworthy employees with a level of discipline that they don’t find in civilian candidates. He looks forward to New England Sheet Metal continuing to support to the program by providing scholarships to veterans.
The Veterans Education Program is split up into parts. The first is the program itself, which consists of a six-week, six-unit program. This part of the curriculum is an intensive refresher in English, mathematics and other courses of that nature.
Veterans will be able to utilize the services Fresno State offers such as the Henry Madden Library.
The second phase is designed to help veterans with life-long learning skills such as fiscal literacy, business acumen, communications skills, resume building and interviewing.
The last portion is designed to help veterans achieve their self-identified goals. Should these goals include attending Fresno state, the program can help them with the application process and direct them where to go. However, if participants want to go to Fresno City College or apply to a college out of state, the program will help them achieve these goals as well.
“That’s what the program is designed to do. We’ll help them get their resumes and make sure that they’ve taken courses in different places and they have all their units together,” Bernard said.
If veterans prefer to enter the workforce after completing their course, the program will assist them with finding jobs they are qualified for. There is a bulletin board posted in the office’s lounge area with current job listings specifically for veterans. There is also information about services useful to veterans such as internship opportunities and workforce development opportunities.
“We also realize that some folks are not going to want to come to college, and that’s fine too,” Bernard said.
Veterans will have access to a lounge where they can study and utilize computers and printers.
“They can really have a place to call their own,” Bernard said.
The lounge is located next door to the classroom where the course will take place. It comes complete with sitting area, a worktable and a kitchen area. There is also a display case with various brochures containing information about resources outside of Fresno State.
“It’s really great because they can come through the six-week program and really get themselves into a great position and either come back to college or have some really good skills sets to go in to the workforce or get some information from us about some local opportunities,” Bernard said.
The program is not just aimed to direct veterans to Fresno State, but really help them find what the Valley has to offer, Bernard said. Those enrolled in the program can also get advice on how to utilize the benefits from their GI Bill. Fresno State currently has a Veterans Services office which veterans will have access to.
Even though the program has not officially started, many veterans have already come to the office requesting information, Bernard said. This gives him a good feeling that the program will be well received and able to assist many who use it.
The start cost for the veterans program is $500. Those interested in contributing to the program can contact Daniel Bernard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 559-278-1901.