Gateway Technical College offers support to military veterans

August 19, 2013

From kenoshanews.com: “Gateway Technical College offers support for military veterans” — By John Krerowicz – Russel Timms, who survived three tours of duty in Iraq, faced challenging Veterans Administration paperwork after he decided to return to college.

“If I had had to fill all that out on my own, it would have been a nightmare,” said the 31-year-old U.S. Army veteran from Kenosha.

Timms had help from counselors at Gateway Technical College, which began emphasizing veteran services in December when officials were considering how to serve students better, said Anne Witte, a student support counselor on the Elkhorn campus.

Timms graduated from Gateway in May with an associate degree in electrical engineering technology. He has received other degrees from Gateway, too. He plans to attend the Milwaukee School of Engineering this fall for a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

He said making the college attractive to veterans is a good idea.

“It’s nice to see fellow soldiers getting an education and bettering their lives,” he said. “It makes sense as there are quite a few veterans going to school there.”

There aren’t figures on the number of veterans attending Gateway, mainly because the application used statewide for the 16 Wisconsin technical colleges did not ask about military service, Witte said. That changed this past school year.

However, Witte did say Gateway figures showed 36 students received state financial aid benefits for veterans and 272 received federal benefits during the 2007-2008 school year. That’s jumped to 205 receiving state benefits and 491 with federal help for the 2012-2013 school year.

Gateway offers veterans help with financial aid, job-related matters and psychological issues, said Barbara Wagner, student adviser at the Burlington center.

Student veterans sometimes go through mental and other health issues such as trauma, loss and grief, as well as possibly difficult transitions into school settings, Wagner said.

Gateway has licensed counselors who can help with brief therapy and referrals for long-term therapy, she said.

“In many cases they’ve come from structured daily activities and now they have a lot more freedom to decide what they’re going to do,” Witte added. “That often can be culture shock.”

Veterans sometimes have concentration, memory and irritability problems affecting their education.

“Sometimes we see they have hypervigilance, a constant state of threat awareness, especially if they’ve seen combat, and that raises their stress levels,” she said. “We try to get them to lowering that threat level.”

Assisting veterans is a way to show appreciation for those who have served the country, Witte said.

“This is a benefit they’ve earned,” she said, adding, “Look what they do for us. It’s an awful lot, the sacrifices they make. We want them to know they’re appreciated. We owe them that.”

Services for military veterans include:

— lunch gatherings on topics such as finances, social media and employment, employers’ needs, interviewing skills, resumes.

— “red shirt Fridays,” where the clothing could be bought with lettering about Gateway supporting U.S. troops.

— a scholarship fundraiser — the first for veterans, called “Boots on the Ground” — drew in almost $625. Continuing veteran students can apply for the funds between late August and mid-October. The first veterans scholarship is to be awarded at the January 2014 Continuing Student Awards Ceremony.

— the Student Veterans of America Club, a national organization the school joined several months ago.

Veterans who want to consider attending Gateway can call 1-800-247 7122.

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