East Valley veterans will soon have a central location to meet with college advisers, find out about benefits and services, and network.
Five Maricopa Community Colleges – Chandler-Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, Gateway and Rio Salado – are collaborating to create the East Valley Veterans Center, which will open in January in offices near Broadway and Price roads in Tempe.
“We’re trying to create a national model,” said Yvonne Lawrence, coordinator of recruitment program for military education at Rio Salado College.
There are about 3,000 veterans using education benefits in the community colleges coming together for the new center. Most — about 1,500 — are at Mesa Community College. Another 1,000 are taking classes through Rio Salado.
There are more than 568,000 veterans in Arizona. Greg Livingston, 32, is one of them. He’s been taking classes for the past two years working on his prerequisites to enter nursing school.
Livingston served from 1999-2004 in the U.S. Army with the 82nd Airborne Division. He achieved an emergency medical technician certificate after graduating from high school in the Valley, but did not return to college until his military service ended.
Livingston said it took about a month to start classes from the time he started researching schools, filling out paperwork for his G.I. benefits and finding a school that would accept them.
He said a one-stop spot for veterans would be “awesome.”
Even scheduling an appointment with his counselor took time because at that point there was only one veterans education coordinator at the school.
Then, “the papers in and of itself are confusing” to use the G.I. Bill.
The idea behind the center is to simplify it all, Lawrence said.
“We’re basically trying to cut some of the red tape in getting veterans enrolled, getting them access to their educational benefits from the VA and reintegration from active-duty service to civilian life,” she said.
The center will be staffed with four full-time members, plus part-time staff depending on the needs. There will also be work-study positions, student veterans working office positions.
The center will open sometime the end of January at 2055 E. Cottonwood Drive. Until then, veterans can get information about the program by calling (480) 517-8153.