The center will help veterans returning home from service acclimate back into civilian, as well as academic, life.
“One of the greatest challenges that veterans face when they transition back into civilian life is not only finding a good job or a place to live, but getting a good education,” said Councilman Eric Ulrich, who chairs the City Council's Veterans Committee.
Ulrich said that when Congress created and passed the GI Bill of Rights in 1944, it believed that getting young men and women a good education was going to be a ticket to the middle class.
“For many veterans, especially the post-9/11 veterans, the American Dream is further out of reach because of the high cost of education,” Ulrich said. “College is becoming less and less affordable and many of the programs that were around to help veterans 40 and 50 years ago unfortunately are not around anymore.”
Queens College has approximately 240 veterans enrolled at the school, and a veteran's club attempts to alleviate some of the stresses involved with assimilating by providing a network of support.
Club president James Marone is a veteran himself, having served over four years in the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan. He's now pursuing a degree in English with a minor in business administration.
Marone, who said the club primarily focuses on outreach and networking as a support system, said the addition of the new center will support that mission.
“Specifically it will help streamline the process,” he said. “It's a central location so won't have to go to the academic advisement center. They can come here and get one-on-one advice.”
The center will also have someone on staff to help with Veterans Affairs benefits.
“It's like a one-stop shop,” Marone added. “To know that the college itself is stepping up support for veterans, they definitely feel more taken care of.”
The center will also receive support from some outside agencies, like Northwell Health. Juan Serrano, program director of the Office of Military and Veteran Liaison Services, said that providing veterans with a space to connect and feel as though they fit in ihelps heal the wounds of war.
“This space certainly is a huge step in supporting the veteran community,” said Serrano. “It is imperative that we give veterans a place where they can connect.”
Northwell Health has 61,000 employees at 21 hospitals, and created a college network to reach veterans and connect them to career opportunities in the company.
“We understand the experiences and the skill sets that they bring to the organization,” Serrano said.