Clayton State University will celebrate the grand opening and ribbon cutting of the newly established Veterans Resource Center (VRC) this Friday, Mar. 16, from 11:30 a.m. to noon.
Attending the opening, and available for interviews at 11:30 a.m., will be four Clayton State University student veterans; Candi Belle (Marines 1975-1978, Army 1996-2008, Army Reserves 2002-2006), Dennis Brown (Army, 1981-2005), Kathleen Ashley (Army & Illinois Army National Guard, 1976-2007) and Clayton State Student Veterans Association President Edwin Starks (Army, 1981-2006).
Clayton State’s VRC will offer a centralized venue regarding veteran information and resources and will also provide veterans with a sense of camaraderie and peer support. The VRC will provide referrals for on campus services as well as referrals to VA facilities and local military support. There will also be information available for new students at orientation, postings for employment opportunities, events, and a place to meet and study with other veterans and military students.
The initiative for the Veterans Resource Center began in 2008 when a small group of student veterans and Shiraz Karaa, associate director and training coordinator of Clayton State University’s Counseling and Psychological Services, met to form a Student Veterans Association (SVA). Karaa was the SVA’s first student organization advisor.
“The first few meeting were called ‘coffee socials’ but they served to bring together the students for academic and peer support and, ultimately, to form the Student Veterans Association,” Karaa says. “I had also been talking to service members coming to counseling for integrating into the civilian world and adjusting to college after the military. The vision was to have something similar to the USO on campus to serve the unique needs of student veterans transitioning from the military to higher education. These students’ numbers were increasing as they returned to use GI Benefits for college education.”
Karaa, a strong advocate for the group, assembled a cross-campus committee - the Veterans Task Force (VTF) - to work on creating a welcoming atmosphere for veterans and their spouses/dependents, who, Karaa explains, can have GI benefits transferred to them.
“We received support from senior administrators at our University and this helped us tremendously in bringing the center to fruition,” Karaa says.
Clayton State University holds the distinction of being named a "military friendly" campus and received a $20K grant from the Board of Regents to establish the VRC.
Karaa, enthusiastic about the future of the VRC, says, “I look forward to seeing the VRC grow, thrive, and serve its vision and mission: To create a seamless transition into higher education for Military Service Members and their spouses and dependents and to provide service members with a welcoming and dedicated venue to assist them in achieving academic excellence.”
Karaa will oversee the VRC until a director is chosen.
For more information on the new VRC at Clayton State, please contact VeteransResourceCenter@clayton.edu or call (678) 466-5527.