Veteran Success Project

Veteran Success Project

If you prefer to donate by payroll deduction, money order, check or cash, download our gift form.

Call Steve Yamamori, VP Veterans Initiatives at 602.369.3531 or email Steve for more information about the Veteran Success Project.

Donate now to help now.

Your donation today will help veterans with the essentials they need for success right now. A $10, $50 or $100 donation will help pay for books, emergency items such as temporary housing, bill assistance, child care, resumes and clothing for interviews.

Your donation will help develop regional veteran centers, a one-stop-shop that can bridge every resource to the appropriate veteran and their spouse. Your dollars will provide case managers, who will help provide a plan for success and the tools to reach those goals. If a veteran determines education is part of their success plan, your donation will also support veteran scholarships, books, tuition, housing, resume writing, financial literacy, transitional classes, child care and emergency needs.

Transitioning out of the military can be a scary and confusing time. Within 30-days, military members and their family may lose both their employment and the roof over their head. Moving from an environment where most decisions are made for you to having to make every decision can be stressful. At the same time, they are also losing their support systems, culture and their personal identity. It’s like they are running downhill without an idea of which path to take.

It’s not that there aren’t resources available, in fact there are over 40,000 organizations that support military and veterans nationwide, but the awareness of these resources is lacking. That’s the big gap.

What our veterans need is a plan. A plan for success that incorporates all facets of their lives and integrates them into our community – to better serve those who served. A person that will actively advise and case manage our veterans and bridge all available resources to help them achieve their goals. This is our plan. This is The Veteran Success Project.

Project Need
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs reports that up to 650,000 veterans reside in the state of Arizona, representing up to 11% of the total population in the State. This population has the potential to grow with more than 1 million active personnel serving currently, who will return to civilian life in the near future. A significant number of both current veterans and active duty personnel will be seeking educational support as they transition from military service to civilian life. Nationally and in Arizona, an overwhelming majority will begin this journey at the community college.

With the enactment of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, colleges in Arizona and across the country have seen a significant influx of recent combat veterans. This influx has presented challenges for the college as well as the veteran. Many veterans face a difficult transition to civilian life, ranging from readjustment issues to recovery from physical and mental injuries (, 2013). These struggles are compounded when veterans enroll and attend college. Comparatively, colleges have not been adequately prepared to provide effective and poignant support services to aid in this transition from being a soldier to being a student. In addition, many returning combat veterans are having difficulties finding employment, reliable transportation, as well as sustaining a place to live for them and their families. Without intentional and proactive attention to this growing challenge, many of our veteran students will fail to stay in school and graduate. This will result in more veterans losing their educational benefits, losing opportunities to qualify for certain jobs, and more importantly, losing out on their own dreams and ambitions.

The influx of Post 9/11 veterans and military personnel into the educational landscape has created new challenges and new opportunities for colleges across the nation. While the Department of Defense has enacted compliance and regulatory measures to thwart unethical proprietary practices against our veterans, these measures have created many challenges to providing timely services that ultimately threatens the college’s ability to remain compliant with federal regulations. With the expansion of federal benefits to dependents and new regulations governing aid to college-enrolled recipients, post-secondary institutions (colleges and universities) are hard pressed to meet new compliance regulations while maintaining services for this growing population. The Maricopa colleges have also suffered from this predicament; experiencing daily pressures to sustain services to our veterans with limited staff, inefficient tracking systems and facility/service constraints.

In a report provided by the Student Veterans Association (2014), veteran students are completing their educational goals at a lower percentage rate than non-veteran students. In Arizona, we know that 61 percent of all jobs in the State will require additional training/education beyond the high school diploma by 2018. MCCCD is committed to seeing our veterans succeed and want to ensure that the achievement gap is closed in order that our veterans are qualified for these jobs that require a post-secondary education. This commitment manifests itself through the launch of the Veterans Success Project. Understanding that it will take community partnerships, alliances and cross-organizational communication to adequately support our veterans and their families, MCCCD is willing and prepared to be a model of Veteran Success in service delivery and systemic transformation.

MCCCD is one of the largest community college systems in the nation. The District consists of ten colleges, two skill centers, and satellites located throughout the Greater Phoenix area. The Mission of MCCCD is to provide access to higher education for diverse students and communities. We focus on learning through:

  • University Transfer Education
  • General Education
  • Developmental Education
  • Workforce Development
  • Student Development Services
  • Continuing Education
  • Community Education
  • Civic Responsibility
  • Global Engagement

The Vision of MCCCD is A Community of Colleges—Colleges for the Community—working collectively and responsibly to meet the life-long learning needs of our diverse students and communities.

Serving Those Who Serve
MCCCD has a long history of providing education and training to veterans and those on active duty who are seeking to gain new skills, enhance existing skills, and translate skills learned in the military for use in the civilian world. Each of the ten colleges has an established a Veterans service unit to assist veterans in applying for education benefits and enrollment. Primarily through referral to other departments, veterans are assisted with:

  • Academic Advising
  • Career Services
  • Counseling
  • Disability Resources and Services
  • Financial Aid
  • Scholarship Opportunities
  • Tutoring Services

Nearly all the colleges have established Veterans Centers for their students. These locations allow space for veterans to study, network, and receive specialized assistance. Throughout the year, colleges organize and host various events honoring and supporting veterans at their colleges. MCCCD’s most noted Veterans Center is the East Valley Veterans Education Center; supported by Rio Salado College, a national leader in distance learning for military personnel world-wide.

The Maricopa Community Colleges East Valley Veterans Education Center (EVVEC) provides transitional assistance, as well as educational outreach and light college advisement services for the community colleges in Maricopa County. It focuses on four areas: education, employment, health, and housing through a myriad of community partners from the grass roots level up to the VA. It also provides practical information and referrals to community resources regarding veteran’s benefits, job leads and searches, emergency food boxes, as well as educational information. All services, workshops, and resources are provided at no cost.

A Systemic Change in Supporting Veterans
The Veteran Success Project is centered on creating a state-wide infrastructure that will support military personnel, veterans, and their families as they transition from active duty to civilian life. This infrastructure will create technological support that keeps Arizona’s community colleges and universities within federal regulations in order to be eligible to provide all federal benefits to veteran students. This infrastructure will create the boilerplate for state-wide professional development for faculty, employers, and community partners on how to effectively support veterans in transition. This infrastructure will engage the workforce community, university partners and veteran related agencies in developing pathways for our veterans to reach their intended career goals. Realizing that Maricopa is only one entry point for education in the state, MCCCD will work collaboratively with state community colleges and universities to pilot and implement these measures within their service areas.

The goals of the Veterans Success Initiative include:

  • Implementing Systemic Changes
    Develop a prototype for a centralized District and State Application for Veterans Aid (SAF-VA) database for electronic submission, processing and tracking of veteran aid, and pre-enrollment advisement. The state database will limit processing time and ultimately build an integrated program integrity compliance system across Maricopa colleges and Arizona universities. The SAF-VA system would operate much like the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) database. Students would have the ability to identify multiple district colleges or state higher education institutions for veterans funding and enrollment. The institutions would have the ability to promptly assess funding options, provide estimated and anticipated award notifications, view approved military course credits, and prior institutions attended. Cost: $1,900,000
  • Provide a centralized location for student referrals to be entered and tracked; customer satisfaction information to be gathered and tracked; reporting tools to audit program compliance and integration with other systems including the PeopleSoft, AdvisorTrac and others as identified.
    Develop a center for curriculum evaluation and articulation model for military credits. Community college and university faculty convene to develop consortium agreements for curriculum tracks and transfer credits of prior military training and courses. Military courses will be mapped for course equivalency and competencies alignment across Arizona higher education institutions. The consortium agreement will also focus on development of interdisciplinary degree/certificate dual tracks for veterans aligned with prior military training and courses.
    Establish trainings for faculty and staff to create awareness about veteran issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
  • Workforce Development
    Provide a centralized and comprehensive workforce development training and certification program for staff and veterans seeking employment in veterans’ administration and services. Develop a State recognized credentialing (Work Keys) program in collaboration with Maricopa District colleges, Arizona community colleges, Arizona universities and Veterans Administration.Develop and provide corporate and community training on veterans in the workplace. Cost: Develop a support and recovery team.
  • Community Partnerships
    Develop Veteran’s Career Re-entry (VCR) job placement and referral service center in collaboration with local or state businesses and industry.Create a West Valley Veterans Education Center – The East Valley Veterans Education Center (EVVEC) supports MCCCD veterans, active-duty, guard, reserve military members, and their families. Adopting the guiding principles of the Seamless Student Experience initiative, the EVVEC serves as a point of entry and works collaboratively with its consortium partners to guide students through the support services process. The EVVEC partnered with Veterans Employment and Training Service, Phoenix VA Health Care System, Veterans Upward Bound, and many community employers to make the EVVEC a success. As a result, we would like to duplicate these efforts and create a WVVEC to provide the same opportunities for veterans in the West Valley while at the same time expanding the programs for both centers and creating endowment funds to sustain both centers in perpetuity. According to the United States Census Bureau (2012), Maricopa County has 99,243 veterans in the East Valley, and 78,490 in the West Valley in addition to the 100,000 people that Luke Air Force Base serves.
  • Student Success
    Develop a District contact and resolution center for assisting veterans with transition services.MCTAPS – Maricopa Colleges Transition Assistance Programs – similar to the TAPS that the military provides at the end of service, but one that is specific for transitioning into college and MCCD.The contact center agents would link veterans to critical support services within the community and work with district colleges to field level 1 registration and certifying questions.Develop veteran success courses with veteran specific orientation.Expand current campus veteran centers to provide satellite support services to veterans, active-duty, guard, reserve military members, and their families.

Unique Qualities of the Program
There are several unique perspectives to the Veterans Success Project. The most important and critical aspect is the expansive service area that the project will cover. Regardless of where the veteran resides in the metro Phoenix area, they will be able to access services and educational support at one of the Veteran Educational Centers or one of the 12 campus Vet Centers. The 14 locations will be intricately connected in order to develop a vast web of support unparalleled to any current veterans’ service organization in the State. Working closely with the Arizona Department of Veterans Affairs, Arizona Coalition for Military Families, and community organizations supporting veterans, MCCCD will create a repository of social service, emergency support, scholarships, and job placements specifically targeted towards veterans who are interested in pursuing or continuing their education.

The second unique aspect is the creation of a seamless transfer process for student veterans who are interested in completing a baccalaureate degree. Working through a centralized MCCCD District Veterans Office, a pathway specifically for veteran students will be developed with the state public universities that helps the veteran with securing their benefits, transferring their courses and military credits, and getting properly connected to the same support services they received at the community college. These pathways are essential to preventing a gap in funding and services for this student population. For many veterans, these gaps mean a loss in income and finances to care for their families.
The third unique aspect of this project is its scalability. The veteran population in our State will continue to grow. Services to this population must be able to expand in order to properly and efficiently support them. Current veteran educational programs across the State are done in silos with limited resources and limited service areas. There are no state-wide veterans’ educational organizations or networks that support collaboration and information sharing. MCCCD is playing a pivotal role in filling this void. Over the past year, MCCCD has worked with the Arizona Department of Veteran Affairs, SEE4Vets, Student Veterans of America, and the three state universities to meet quarterly to address state issues impacting veteran students. Through these connections we have established, MCCCD’s Veteran Success Project will provide the opportunity for the state community colleges to engage in this conversation; enabling us to bring all public college and university entities together.

The final unique aspect is the programmatic efforts this Project will provide. Specifically, these efforts include:

  • A West Valley Veteran Educational Center that serves as a “one-stop-shop” for veterans, active-duty, guard, reserve military members, and their families who are interested in beginning their educational journey and/or want to enter the workforce. In addition, these students will have access to counselors to be able to heal scars associated with trauma they have encountered while serving their country.
  • A MCTAPS program that supplements the military’s transition assistance program. According to TAOnline (2013), the military’s program provides a 7 day workshop series that consists of personal finance, family adjustments, benefits, and mentorship. The final 2 days of the TAP program, is the only time that is dedicated to helping service members explore their educational options. The MCTAPS program will be a recognizable extension of the military’s TAPS program; teaching veterans how to navigate educational systems, efficiently use their military education benefits, and how to transition to civilian life in Arizona and on the college campus.

A Worthy Investment
On April 12, 2011, HB 2410 was signed into law, allowing in-state student status for tuition purposes to honorably discharged veterans of any branch of the United States Armed Forces, including National Guard and Reserves. While a worthy and admirable effort to support veteran students, it is far from enough. Nationally and within our state, “returning veterans often face a myriad of challenges when it comes to higher education, including reacquainting themselves with academic work, navigating complex campus administrative systems, finding support services to meet their needs, encountering negative reactions from the campus community based on their participation in military conflicts, and having difficulty connecting with classmates and faculty. Many institutions are ill prepared to deal with these challenges and are often confused about where to begin determine what services student veterans needs and hot to provide them.” (Griffin and Gilbert, 2012)

Recognizing these challenges our veteran students face, MCCCD took up the charge and has been at the forefront of bringing together the right people, the right organizations, and the right student veteran voices, to help craft and develop local and state-wide efforts to support and encourage the improvement of services directed towards veterans. With decreasing financial support from the state legislature, shrinking budgets due to enrollment, and a decrease in real estate developments, Colleges are facing competing needs that stretch their ability to provide intentional and effective services to those student populations that need these types of services. The desire to serve our veterans is a priority for many of our campuses across the state, but budget lines are still being impacted by recessionary limits; making it difficult for colleges to meet all of the needs of our veteran student population.

Your investment in the Veterans Success Project is an investment in the future of our veteran students. Many of these young men and women have fought to protect our country with the notion that when they return, they can begin to build their own American dream. This dream, concretely connected to higher education and career development, involves providing for their families and being civically engaged. This investment is the down payment on the guarantee that these dreams will become a reality for the veteran students who come to Arizona to pursue their educational aspirations.

The Veteran Success Project will be a comprehensive, community-based, and individually-focused program. Assisting veterans from the initial inquiry phase of their college career up through graduation, this program will ultimately put veterans to work and offer holistic healing so that they will be ready to enter the workforce upon completing their academic careers. We are confident that this Project will be a premier model for other colleges, universities and higher education systems to duplicate and implement in their state. We are also confident that this Project will be the hallmark of best practices for serving veteran students in American colleges and universities.

Your investment into the Veteran Success Project will provide the necessary foundation to construct a permanent cross-functional effort within the Maricopa County Community College District, as well as the prototype to be implemented throughout the other state community college systems. Utilizing a phase approach over the next 5-8 years, MCCCD will transition personnel and standardized resources from grant funding into permanent budget line items. Additionally, MCCCD will work with state agencies and the Arizona Department of Veterans Affairs to incorporate the state veterans tracking technology into a permanent home that all colleges and universities will be able to access and utilize.

Measures of Success

Outcome: A comprehensive ten year business plan will be initiated that includes an organizational plan, implementation process, personnel needs, marketing/communication, college integration, and institutionalization of project.

Indicators: Memorandums of Understanding between state community colleges, state public universities, state agencies and local community partners.

Outcome: New-to-college Veteran Success Project Participants will be financial and academically prepared for first year college courses

Indicators: Percentage increase of participants enrolled in college level English/math following initial intervention, Veterans Upward Bound, and MTAPS; Successful completion rates in Veteran specific orientations and student success courses; Successful completion of first semester courses (A,B,C,P grade)

Outcome: Currently enrolled AND New-to-college Veteran Success Project Participants will be assessed to determine service levels that will promote persistence and completion.

Indicators: Implement case management tracking evidence that provides individualized advising and mentoring; Successful 45th day enrollment of participants at Veteran Success Project College Campuses; Positive percentage difference of Veteran Success Project participants persistence rates vs. non-participants

Outcome: Veteran Success Project participants will be provided with financial literacy education to prevent/ reduce student debt and balance socio-economic demands on educational needs.

Indicators: Positive percentage difference of Veteran Success Project participants with timely completion of VA benefits documentation, the FAFSA, application for scholarships, and reduced loan reliance vs. non-participants; Positive satisfaction from Veteran Success Project participants on financial literacy training.

Outcome: Veteran Success Project participants will be provided baccalaureate transfer preparation and career explorations/employment readiness.

Indicators: Positive percentage difference of Veteran Success Project participants on an ASU MAPP, CONNECT2NAU, or UA BRIDGE PROGRAM transfer pathway vs. non-participants; Positive percentage difference of Veteran Success Project participants with a Kuder assessment and career portfolios with MCCCD Vet centers vs. non-participants; Positive satisfaction from Veteran Success Project participants on employment skill building (resume creation, interviewing skills, internship opportunities)

Outcome: Meaningful collaborations with community partners will be developed to promote Veteran student success, degree completion, University transfer and job readiness.

Indicators: Coordinated meetings to lay the groundwork for alignment and collaboration with community partners; Identified and implemented initiatives with community partners; Coordinated programs/services aimed at educating families on the various facets of higher education; Positive satisfaction survey results from Veteran Success Project participants on identified community initiatives; Increased awareness of Veteran Success Project within local community; Positive satisfaction survey results from participants’ on identified community initiatives; Placement and referral rates.