All throughout the U.S., veterans are celebrated on November 11, and Valencia College takes has programs in place to help those who have served get the education needed for the next step.
The Valencia Voice spoke with the East Campus’ Veteran Affairs office and counselors to gain insight on the procedures to qualify for financial aid, advising assistance, and how to seek help for PTSD.
For returning veterans, the process to enroll in college can be a daunting task. To assist veterans in making the change, the staff at Valencia have simplified their services, offering as much help as they can.
“They can simultaneously apply for the benefit, which is through the V.A., and then also apply to the school,” Nick DeMaio, a member of Valencia’s V.A. department, said. “Thirty days after applying for the V.A. benefit they will receive a letter in the mail stating that they are entitled to a benefit … most times people get a 100% benefit.”
A veteran’s amount of active duty depends on their percentage of financial aid from the V.A. “They will get that letter,” DeMaio said. “They will have to bring in their DD 214, which is the separation paperwork, and also lets us know which discharge they were awarded. They have to do their online, or on-campus, orientation. That same day after they complete it, they are allowed to pick classes. Then they come and see me.”
Sometimes choosing the right career path can be problematic for veterans looking to enroll. Valencia has an experienced staff of qualified advisors to help returning vets with any questions or concerns they might have about courses.
Valencia College advisor Dr. Rafael Davila wants vets to know his door is always open for them. He understands that the readjustment is difficult for some vets. “It’s not an easy lifestyle, being away from family,” said Davila, who had enrolled in the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island before earning his master’s in counseling education and a doctorate in education leadership from the University of Central Florida.
Joining classes with students who cannot relate to a vets’ experience has been an issue. To combat this problem, Davila suggests courses that force them to come together.
“We have offered speech classes specifically for vets to bond there. Vets have enjoyed that class. We have a veteran’s club. They have outings, go bowling, social stuff, casino night on campus.”
Veterans who have visited Dr. Davila in the past are very serious about their careers and asked about job placements available while in school. Previously, Valencia’s vets chose internships in I.T.-related fields, programming, and engineering. Davila recommended they find internships.
Valencia College’s V.A. Department also seeks to help those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. John Cothron, a licensed counselor in Orlando, uses Accelerated Resolution Therapy that “is a rescripting of the event itself for a positive response,” he said. “It takes constant training of the brain in that manner when it comes to changing that [initial] reaction. It really works. It is very effective.”
Helping vets recover from past trauma might be “hard because the adrenaline has been so pumped up, their body is almost going through a withdrawal because there is no need for it,” Cothron said of the physiological factors.
Dr. Davila advises vets suffering from PTSD to contact Bay Health care, where the first three sessions are free and are open 24/7.
Helping vets with stress is a priority for the counselors at Valencia. “They should know that they are not alone,” he said. “Get involved in campus, build that support system, make friends in every class. It makes a huge difference.”