Ribbon cut on new Veterans Connect Center

Vets Center Ribbon Cutting
Set to cut the ribbon are, from left, John Mamaril, Charles Brewer, Dr. Paul Illich, Kathy Boellstorff, Steve Leiker, Lauren Rinne, and Bev Harvey.
Vets Pledge of Allegiance
The ceremony began with those in attendance saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

More than 75 people attended a ribbon cutting commemorating the official opening of the Southeast Community College Veterans Connect Center Friday morning.

The newly renovated space is located in Room U3 on the lower level of the Lincoln Campus at 8800 O St. It includes soft seating, a large conference table, Microsoft Surface tablets, desks, chairs, a refrigerator, and flat-screen television.

Dr. Paul Illich, SCC president, thanked everyone involved in helping create the space and for securing a $10,000 grant from The Home Depot Foundation.

"We have an objective in our strategic plan specifically for veterans," Illich said. "As a community college, we have a unique mission that includes serving a diverse student population."

Charles Brewer, associate director of financial aid; John Mamaril, administrative assistant in SCC-Lincoln's Registration and Records Office and an advisor to veteran students; and Lauren Rinne, Veterans Administration assistant representative, were largely responsible for organizing the event, which was attended by numerous SCC employees who have military service and others.

Brewer said, "When that grant was approved, it was one of the happiest moments ever."

Kathy Boellstorff, chairperson of SCC's Board of Governors, spoke about the effects military service had on her.

"I will never know what you have been through," she said, directing the comment to veterans in the room, "but I can tell you how service to our country has affected my life."

Boellstorff said that her mother's first husband was killed in World War II. Her father, Vincent George Weber, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. His brother, Boellstorff's uncle Ray, was killed while serving in the Navy. And Boellstorff's husband, Mark, is an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam. He is a member of American Legion Post 246 and serves as honorary color guard during veterans' memorial services.

SCC is one of 50 colleges and universities across the nation to receive a 2015 Vet Center Initiative Grant from The Home Depot Foundation. The Student Veterans of America announced the award. SCC received $10,000 to help build the Veterans Connect Center. The renovated space provides SCC's student veterans and their families a quiet environment to study, relax and refocus.

Last December, Brewer, Rinne and Mamaril were among a group of six people that appeared before SCC's Board of Governors and outlined their goals for veteran students. Acquiring a grant to build a dedicated space for veteran students was a goal.

"I feel really good about this space," said Mamaril, a Maryland native who was a petty officer in the U.S. Navy from 2006-2010. "This is a bridge to help veteran students connect with faculty and staff and to help them to succeed in life."

Steve Leiker, manager of The Home Depot store at South 70th Street and Highway 2 in Lincoln, said he was proud to work for a company that does so much for veterans.

"We have thousands of volunteers across the nation focusing on how we can serve our veterans," said Leiker, who referenced the Sept. 11 kickoff of The Home Depot's fifth annual "Celebration of Service" project. "It's a volunteer army called Team Depot," whose mission is to transform veterans' homes nationwide.

SCC's Computer Aided Design Drafting program assisted with the design of the space.

Recognized as an institutional best practice by SVA and other prominent leaders in the veteran education space, including the American Council on Education, resource centers have been shown to directly contribute to student veterans' successful academic outcomes.

In response to substantial demands for this resource, and as part of SVA's continued advocacy of both peer- and campus-based support, SVA partnered with The Home Depot Foundation to launch the Vet Center Initiative grant program in 2014.

"As thousands of military veterans return to college campuses this fall, eager to re-integrate into society and jump-start their college education, the promise of a dedicated space that they can call home on campus is important," said D. Wayne Robinson, SVA president and CEO. "Veterans centers are critical in helping to empower veterans on campus. The Home Depot's commitment will build pathways of opportunity for the next generation of student veterans and ensure the success of America's economic future."

SCC was the only school in Nebraska to be awarded the grant.

"Congratulations on being awarded the $10,000 Veteran's Center Initiative Grant from The Home Depot Foundation and this momentous occasion," Boellstorff said. "You have faithfully discharged your duty. Now you have a new purpose and mission to accomplish. Southeast Community College will help you achieve your educational goals and dreams as you transition into civilian life. You are the light of liberty. You are the heroes we sing about in 'America, the Beautiful.' 'In liberating strife, who more than self their country loved, and mercy more that life."

SVA is a 501(c)3 non-profit coalition of more than 1,200 student veteran organizations representing 440,000 veterans in higher education. SVA's mission is to provide military veterans with the resources, support and advocacy to ease veteran and active military students' transition into higher education and leverage military experience to launch successful careers in high-demand fields.

-30-

For more information contact:
Stu Osterthun
Administrative Director of Public Information and Marketing
402-323-3401
sosterthun@southeast.edu