Advocating for Veterans Education

Advocating for Veterans Education

Over the past 12 years as a lobbyist for public higher education, I have passionately advocated for a number of issues, from STEM and research and development, to teacher training and the prevention of childhood obesity.

But, I have to say, one of the most exciting aspects of my current work is my continued advocacy on behalf of California State University, Fullerton and Lansing Community College in their efforts to educate and support veterans seeking higher education and job training. As a son and brother of veterans, this one hits especially close to home. I understand the sacrifice veterans make for our country and believe that we should do all that we can to support them when they return home and transition from their military careers.

Next week, I will be meeting with Department of Defense officials at the Pentagon to discuss two programs that offer a nationally replicable framework to provide education and support to veterans and connect the military to the civilian workforce.

California State University, Fullerton: Comprehensive Fitness for the Student Veteran

The first is Cal State Fullerton’s researched based initiative, the Comprehensive Fitness for the Student Veteran, which provides a holistic approach that focuses on the following nine domains of wellness:

  1. Educational
  2. Vocational
  3. Financial
  4. Relational
  5. Social
  6. Spiritual
  7. Physical
  8. Mental
  9. Emotional

The University’s Veterans Student Support Services manages this innovative program and believes that a federal partnership would allow the program to be implemented nationally. It’s also important to note that Cal State Fullerton is also focused on creating a female veteran-friendly campus by providing healthcare options, leadership and empowerment opportunities, mentoring, childcare, and career counseling. A number of participating student veterans have said that this program has been critical to their academic success and personal well-being. This is confirmed by the fact that the the University’s Veterans Resource Center, recently dedicated in 2012, has been visited by student veterans over 5,000 times, has a 91% utilization rate above the previous academic year, and has played a key role in a 68% four year graduation rate for veterans and a retention rate of 81%.

Lansing Community College: Military Medic-to-Paramedic-to-Registered Nurse

The second initiative, developed by Lansing Community College, is a Military Medic-to-Paramedic-to-Registered Nurse Program (MM2P). The pilot curriculum provides a framework for military medics to utilize their knowledge, skills, and ability to transition quickly to civilian paramedics, and then to continue on through a fast-track curriculum to registered nurses. Specifically, military medics are able to complete paramedic licensure in six months. They are then eligible for a fast-track Advanced Standing RN-BSN Nursing program. The time from Medic to BSN is 38 months and Medic to RN is 17 months. Student coaches, veterans orientation, and personalized advisement are key elements of the program that have helped veteran Medics demonstrate high levels of success in the MM2P Program:

The full dissemination and implementation of MM2P will enroll and graduate approximately 10,080 veteran medics as paramedics in 33 colleges across the nation over a three year period. What I believe makes this program especially compelling is that it addresses two acute education and employment needs at once: the need for discharged veterans to be able to transition quickly into civilian jobs and the need for a comprehensive and efficient response to the shortage of qualified health professionals.

We have worked to gain the support of the college’s congressional delegation and a number of federal agencies for the MM2P Program but there’s a lot more to be done. Additional support and partnerships need to be secured in order to expand and replicate this initiative.

We must commit and act to advance the education and overall wellness of our veterans who have given so much to all of us. I am ready to act and look forward to continuing my work advocating for these two important programs.