At Victor Valley College (VVC) many of the staff members take care of the students in amazing ways. Sadly there is not enough bandwidth to spotlight everyone, but today you get to learn a bit about some of the team members from the Veterans Resource Center (VRC).
Earlier this month I was given the opportunity to speak with one of the staff members and pick his brain a bit as to why their team works so well. And of course, Esteban Penameza (financial aid technician at the VRC) was more than willing to help one of his students out.
From the moment you walk into the VRC, you are welcomed and asked to sign in. You will notice they have a bank of computers for use, copiers, a lounge area with snacks, and even a mini school library with loaner books for Veterans, active duty, and their dependents.
But the main thing that makes this amazing work so smoothly is the staff. The majority of them are veterans themselves. Esteban Penameza was on active duty for over 18 years and for 16 of those years he was in charge of troops. He let me know that “I think that is what helps me understand people and work ethic.”
Esteban was also quick to emphasize that “One key point of any VRC or unit, will be the success has a lot to do with the personalities of the team. Here at the VRC Team, we work hard as a team to make it happen. All the way from the Director Jason Judkins, to the Veteran Specialist Gina Janisko and myself. “
It is this connection to the military that creates familiarity and a sense of being welcomed into a family. These people really care and want to help you succeed. When I asked him about this he let me know why; “We have a saying in the military, that we are all part of a big family.
In the civilian world, no one really cares about us as a Veteran Community. We care about us, and that what makes VVC VRC a great place. This is not a business, we are a family here at VVC we want to see you succeed.”
And just like in any family, there are times they may need to give a bit of tuff love. But you always know that when this happens it is because they really want you to succeed in your academic career and life.
Estaban opened up about the moments he had had a student that was struggling and what he and the VRC team did to help out. “I have had students in here, where I have to tighten down on them in order to get them back on track to complete and be successful in classes.”
He went on to explain that they have many resources available to help personalize
individual student’s needs. “ At the VRC, we have tutors, and Academic Counselors that will assist our students to help them in their course. We as a staff (big brother big sister type or staff) will always give that helping hand in order to help our students out.”
Then there are the students that need help understanding their benefits and filling out paperwork. once again, this team steps up and takes care of their people.
Anyone who has had to deal with the military, their websites, and paperwork, knows it can be excruciatingly confusing. And if you fill one thing out wrong, it can be very detrimental down the road.
Esteban reflected back to a time when he had a student who had unknowingly run into this dilemma and could have possibly hurt his children’s chances at getting aid when they were old enough for college.
This student had not realized when they enrolled that there was a VRC or what it could do for them. Thankfully they found it and Esteban took over, “Once they came in to the VRC, I start going down my check list to ensure that the student is squared away with classes and support…”
While doing this he uncovered the problem. “I found that they were using the wrong
benefits and were wasting them… the VRC Team had the student make the corrections and apply for the proper Military programs, We saved the student over 25,000 in educational benefits that they can pass down to their son for his future college.” I was surprised to learn from him that these types of errors occur almost daily. So if you are a veteran, get in there and get your paperwork checked!
At the end of the interview, I asked Esteban what he would like the students to know about the VRC, here is his reply. “We are here to help you become successful. We understand that being a student at a college after military service can be stressful. The Transition between them can break or make a person. We are motivated, dedicated in seeing you succeed, here at the VRC. We were just like you when we first started and noticed there was something missing.
The VRC Team and staff will never quit or give up, as we offer you the challenge and assistance in becoming a graduate from Victor Valley College. We love what we do!!”
If you are a veteran, active duty, or a dependant and have not linked up with the VRC yet, do not pass go, but head straight to the VRC. To find them online, it is as easy as typing VVCVRC, or follow this link:https://www.vvc.edu/veterans/ . you can also follow this link to their contact page: https://www.vvc.edu/veterans/contact-us.shtml If you are going to the campus you can head to the lower campus and look for building 80.01B