Influx of money gives boost to soldiers resource center.
The Rancho Santiago Community College District’s Veterans Resource Center now has an additional $100,000 to work with, thanks to the Soldiers to Scholars fundraiser held on Sept. 15. Schools First Credit Union, the event’s title sponsor, donated $50,000.
The VRC offers returning veterans an environment designed to help them succeed. Services include access to computers and printers, counseling and tutoring.
Wiley McGraw, a volunteer at the Veterans Resource Center since 2009, was one of the first veterans to help get the VRC off the ground.
McGraw decided to come to Santa Ana College but found little help, because there wasn’t a specific location here to guide those who served in the military at the time. “I take that a little personally,” McGraw said.
After talking to a number of people McGraw was frustrated. “When you get to a school and you don’t know where to go to you freak out. I’m a new student, plus how do I get benefits, what am I supposed to take, how do I get an education plan, where am I supposed to go,” McGraw said.“It freaks you out and you suffer some anxiety.”
Michael Kuzara, an Army veteran and one of the VRC’s first volunteers, not only struggled with getting his education plan together but with transitioning to civilian life as well.
“You go from shooting people to holding your nephew, from sleeping three hours to sometimes 12 hours. My body was kind of out of whack. It was very difficult,” Kuzara said.
Student Trustee Andrew Hanson shared his gratitude with fellow veterans from the Veteran Resource Center.
“Thank you for helping me get one step closer to my dreams,” Hanson said after sharing his story.
After enlisting in the Marine Corps in 2006, Hanson came home in 2010 after traveling the world while serving on the 13th Marine Expeditionary.
Hanson was not the best student in high school. The military was the, “best decision I’ve made in my life,” he said. Hanson explained that joining the Marines helped him build character.
Five years removed from a school environment, he needed guidance. “My saving grace was the phone number to the Veterans Resource Center,” Hanson said.
Getting the help he needed from the VRC pushed him through school. Hanson currently works as a security guard while finishing his political science degree at Santa Ana College. He is settling down with his pregnant wife and getting ready to start a family.
With plans of transferring to the University of California, Hanson wants to be a lawyer and become a public defender.
Profile on Trustee Andrew Hanson
Student Trustee Andrew Hanson, 22, is a second-year political science major here at SAC. Hanson joined the Marines in 2006, and after two tours of duty he returned to finish school. He hopes to transfer to Berkeley or UCLA after finishing at SAC.