Veterans from around the country enroll at Foothill College, drawn by its outstanding reputation. When they arrive at the Los Altos Hills campus, in addition to excellent academic programs they find the Veterans Resource Center waiting for them. Under the direction of Carmela Xuereb, the center assists vets in their transition to civilian life.
On a recent weekday, young men and women passed through the humble little office space, the size of a teenager’s bedroom, filling out paperwork and taking a break between classes. They have access to the center’s extensive list of counseling, workshops and training. And they also guide each other as peer mentors.
Beth Stolyarchuk, a former Russian linguist in the U.S. Marine Corps, had only a week to get organized for her new life as a student when she moved from Hawaii this autumn to study radiology at Foothill. The Resource Center simplified the process. Xuereb walked her through the details of enrolling using military education benefits and introduced her to other resources veterans can tap.
“Carmela hooked me up with everything I needed to get done,” Stolyarchuk said, including a high-tech Livescribe Smartpen, to help her bring her A-game as she hits the books. Smartpens loans are among the resources veterans find at the center.
The pens record and store lectures and notes for later review. Using the new tool takes practice and follow-through, but Stolyarchuk said those are the skills veterans are particularly suited to bring to the classroom.
“Radiology is super competitive. I have to get good grades to get into the course,” Stolyarchuk said, reviewing the classes she was taking this fall and the new study skills she’d picked up as she took on a challenging geology course.
Support from the Town Crier Holiday Fund helps equip the center, which also has a computer lab and plans to expand into a larger space.
Veterans at the center last week spoke with gravity about the importance they place on their new mission – learning to excel as students.
“I have the discipline to sit in the classroom and pay attention,” Stolyarchuk said. “In my history class, I was made a teacher’s assistant because I was military.”
Xuereb said the center keeps teachers and staff at Foothill informed about the veterans who enroll, including any injuries, visible or unseen, that an accommodating classroom could ameliorate.
Returning from military service brings challenges differing from those most of the students face, independent of whether a veteran may have been wounded. Most of the vets are self-supporting rather than relying on parents’ funds and have to juggle work and study, veteran Brennon Shepherd pointed out.
Although veterans bring social skills honed by years of working with people from a wide range of backgrounds, when they get to Foothill, often they don’t know many people in the area. The Veterans Resource Center serves as a clubhouse, where they can find like-minded company and resources.