State senator praises CCCC veterans services

Sep. 19, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

N.C. Sen. Ronald Rabin visited Central Carolina Community College’s Lee County Campus this week and said liked what he saw in the educational and support opportunities available to military veterans.

Rabin represents Harnett, Johnston and Lee counties, an area that is home to many active-duty and former military members.

“Central Carolina Community College is a great environment for veterans,” he said after a tour and meeting with the college’s Veterans Club. “The morale and spirit are great — you can’t have learning without that. The programs are right-on, good training coupled with job opportunities when they complete it.”

Rabin, a retired U.S. Army colonel, came at the invitation of the college’s Veterans Club. Club President Alex Bridges is a Marine Corps veteran who served several tours in Afghanistan. Club advisor Ben Cole, lead engineering instructor, served in the U.S. Army.

The Veterans Club offers a relaxed atmosphere for veterans to gather for fellowship, to discuss challenges and to work with the college to see that the veterans’ needs are understood and met. It is working on a website to reach out to and connect with more veterans.

Rabin visited the Motorcycle Mechanics, Veterinary Medical Technology, Computer Integrated Machining and Computer Aided Design Technology programs. Veterans in those programs talked with him about what they are learning and how the college supports them as veterans.

Tuesday was Constitution Day, so Rabin also addressed a Veterans Club audience of about 60 people about the importance of defending the Constitution.

“The Constitution not only defines our freedoms and unalienable rights but also protects those rights from the government’s ability to deny them,” he said.

He urged the veterans to become politically active, asking, “Who has more invested in our country?”

Rabin spoke about what he would like to see the state do to assist veterans more, such as having educational institutions give academic credit for workforce skills learned in the military. He said that veterans with skills needed to grow North Carolina’s economy are entering the civilian population every day, and the state must do more to integrate them into the workforce. He said that he is working on legislation and with others at the state level to accomplish these goals.

“These are skilled personnel who can enrich our workforce and be a positive force in attracting new industry to the state,” Rabin said.

Following his remarks, Bridges and Cole presented him with a ceramic gift decorated with the American flag. Ceramist Linda Cole, Ben Cole’s wife, made the piece.

Tracy Gross, CCCC’s Veterans Affairs coordinator, served 26 years in the U.S. Army. He noted that veterans are about 7 percent of the college’s students, with more than 300 enrolled at CCCC campuses and centers in Chatham, Harnett and Lee counties.

“Senator Rabin’s visit to our school was great for our student veterans as they got a chance to show a local state representative their fields of study and, more importantly, that our student veterans population has transitioned well into a community college setting like CCCC,” Gross said.

Central Carolina Community College has been designated a “Military-Friendly School” by Victory Media Inc., a veteran-owned business that has been serving the military community since 2001. According to Rich McCormack, company president, CCCC ranks in the top 15 percent of all colleges, universities and trade schools nationwide for its recruitment and support of military-related students

“Being designated as a Military-Friendly School shows CCCC’s strong commitment to veterans and their families,” said CCCC Dean of Student Support Services Heather Willett, who oversees veterans affairs at the college. “We want to ensure that our military service members are successful students and to let them know that we will provide the right tools and support to help them reach their educational goals.”

Rabin learned that the college runs the only Veterans Upward Bound program in North Carolina. That program assists low-income veterans in preparing to succeed in college through the development of academic skills, counseling, mentoring and tutoring.

CCCC also conducts outreach to veterans in the community. On Oct.12, the college will join with community and government agencies to sponsor Veterans Stand Down at the National Guard Armory, in Sanford. The event will provide free educational, job and psychosocial services, as well as health screenings, to former military members.

“We are proud to be known as a Military-Friendly School and provide many resources to veterans that other places do not have,” said CCCC President Bud Marchant. “We appreciate Sen. Rabin’s visit today to show the veterans at our school how important they are and how he wants to help solve their problems through his work in the legislature.

Veterans taking part in Rabin’s tour of CCCC’s programs were Marine Corps veteran Alex Bridges, of Lee County, mechanical engineering student and president of the Veterans Club; and Army veterans Robert Miller, of Hoke County, a motorcycle mechanics student; Kelli Bechtler, of Randolph County, and Amy White, of Harnett County, both veterinary medical technology students; Brian Lantz, of Lee County, a CAD technology student; Larry Harris, of Harnett County, a CIT tool, die and mold-making student; and Thomas Dutton, of Harnett County, and Peter Karstaedt, of Chatham County, both CAD technology students.

For information about veterans’ services at CCCC, call Tracey Gross, Veterans Affairs Coordinator, at (919) 718-7233 or email her at tgross@cccc.edu.