Student Services at ACC that won’t cost you a thing!

ACC students in writing centerArapahoe Community College is the perfect place to begin – or continue – your journey towards Moving Mountains with your academic and career goals.

ACC offers an affordable education (lowest tuition among state-funded schools) with instructors who are experts in their field. Classes are available online and at our campuses in Littleton, Parker and Castle Rock. We’re close to home, and our small class sizes allow students to receive individual attention.

Our Career & Transfer Center provides guidance for students looking to continue their education beyond ACC. In fact, we offer guaranteed transfer programs to all four-year Colorado public institutions. Transfer fairs and employment expos, as well as job/career exploration events, are held during the fall and spring semesters. Peer tutoring services, as well as math and writing support centers, are offered at no cost to students. Academic Advising provides one-on-one assistance with course selection and the registration process as students develop their personalized plan for one of seven degree pathways.

Students can get involved with clubs and organizations as they acclimate to college life. Our honor societies and student government foster leadership skills and provide opportunities for scholarly growth. The Student Success Center facilitates a variety of tools and enrichment workshops to hone time-management and study skills.

ACC is committed to supporting veterans and military-connected students, and has been named as a Military-Friendly School. Student Access Services can assist with permanent or temporary accommodations, and on-campus counseling services are available through the Student Engagement Center. ACC also introduced the Elevate program in 2016, providing students with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to pursue higher education.

The Library & Learning Commons offers the optimal environment for individual research or group study sessions. Our Fitness Center is open Monday – Saturday, providing a welcoming facility complete with treadmills, spin bikes, free weights, locker rooms and contemporary recreational amenities. ACC also has a fully-accredited childcare center on site, providing students, employees and members of the community with a clean, healthy and nurturing environment for little ones throughout the fall, spring and summer semesters.

ACC is partnering with Colorado State University and the Douglas County School District on the new Castle Rock Collaboration Campus. Students can now complete their associate degree or certification in its entirety at the recently-renovated Parker Campus. Brand new, state-of-the-art science labs at the Littleton Campus will deliver the best in experiential and collaborative learning.

Our faculty and staff are dedicated to providing innovative and responsive educational and economic opportunities in an accessible, inclusive environment that promotes success for students, employees and members of the south metro Denver communities.

Whether you’re a prospective, current or transfer student, you’ll find the education and resources you need to Move Mountains at ACC and beyond.

by Jeff Duggan, ACC Communications Coordinator

Transitioning to Civilian

Jason:

This is my first blog so be gentle please. But first a little about me. My name is Jason Moore. I joined the army in 2010 as a 13B or other words knows as Field Artillery Crewman. I was stationed at 101st Airborne Division after basic training and AIT (Advanced Initial Training). I was shortly deployed to Afghanistan in the Kunar province for a year.  I spent 3 years in the army and got out due to a medical reason. When I got out I thought I would just go back to my normal civilian life but it wasn’t easy.

I decided to try and start school to occupy my free time and thought again “this will be easy, I’ve been through the military training, I got this in the bag.”  I was wrong, though. This is a completely different world than I thought. If it wasn’t for the great resources the Veteran center had such as peer tutors, a private place to study (the lounge) and instructors like I had (Joe Slonka, and Richard Corbetta) and all the others in the paralegal program, I believe I will would have quit, but I’m glad I didn’t. But I’m not the only one. DJ will tell you his story now.

DJ:

My name is Daniel Cunningham, like Jason this is my first time writing in a blog format so please be understanding to the both of us. I joined the military back in 2005 as a 91w at the time, it is now known as a 68w or medic. My time in the military was very diverse. I went from Ft. Hood where I had my first deployment to Iraq with 4th ID. When I got back I was put with 1st ID 1/26 where I went on my second deployment in 2008 to Afghanistan. After that I did a stent in Korea and finally came back to 1/26 at Ft Knox, where I went on my final deployment which ended with me being medically retired from the military in 2014.

Coming out of the military was extremely hard on me. I did not want out and I had fought my medical board for almost two years before I finally resigned to my fate. When I first got out I lived with my family here in Colorado trying to figure out what I should do with my life now. My life goals of doing 20 years in the military and then going over to the police force were no longer possible, so I spiraled into a state of depression. Finally, my wife had had enough of me and forced me to go to school to find myself again. Since then I have been a lot happier and have finally chosen a career path for myself, geophysical engineering, which feels good. I believe that being around the fellow Veterans here at ACC and hearing their stories has helped me move through the transition and find a new life outside of the military.

ACC can be a great place for each of our Veterans coming back. We want each of you to find your place here at ACC – join us in the Veterans Lounge, stop by a Student Veterans Association meeting in the fall or use any of the great resources. While it will not always be easy to make a transition, by making connections here at ACC, you’ll have an overall better time here and hopefully a successful experience. You can contact us at jmoore249@student.cccs.edu and dcunningham23@student.cccs.edu

by Jason Moore and DJ Cunningham

Veterans View – Helping Our Vets Move Mountains toward Success

Dawn Stratton

Dawn Stratton, Director of the ACC Testing Center and ACC Veterans Club Faculty Advisor

It is pretty easy for me to spot a veteran.  It isn’t always the “yes, ma’am” they tend to include when talking with me (although that is a big clue). It is the memorial bracelet they are wearing, the way they walk a little taller, the patriotic tattoos, the way they look you right in the eye, their sense of humor, the way they shake your hand. It’s the gracefulness in their answer when I ask which branch they served.

Our student veterans are always willing to listen to your story, but their story is the one I really want to hear. ACC is lucky to have a more intimate environment and to have so many ways to engage our students. The number of veterans – of all ages – at ACC always surprises me. I believe you could ask anyone at ACC if they have a veteran in their lives and they would answer in the affirmative.

Every November when Student Life has activities surrounding Veterans Day, a display of pictures with brief bios of those who have served are posted in the Second Floor Student Lounge.

In 2008, I was able to post a picture of an ACC student – my son, Evan – who was serving his country as a Marine. He had such a baby face and looked way too young to serve his country. I knew that Evan stood in those famous yellow footprints at Camp Pendleton and really had no idea of what he was in for. I knew that his family worried about him during those months while they wrote encouraging or funny letters, and cried whenever they received a letter from him. I know they breathed a sigh of relief when graduation was finally upon him and he had survived the Crucible. Boot Camp and his basic training molded him into something new and he was trying to portray that in the picture.

In 2009, I posted that same picture. I thought about posting the one that showed him with his shaved head (the symbol of first-time deployment). I wish I had the courage to post the photo where Evan was receiving a purple heart in his hospital bed, or the sacred one showing his roommate’s flag-draped casket, or even the one of me rushing to embrace him once he was back on American soil. But instead I just changed his rank on the bio and posted the one in dress blues. No matter which photo I chose to post on the Veterans Day display, it wouldn’t have come close to telling the story of what Evan experienced during his deployment to Al Anbar Provence, Iraq.

In a March 2013 edition of Diverse Issues in Higher Education, Clarence V. Reynolds cited Student Veterans of America’s (SVA) estimate for the student veteran demographic to nearly double in the next five years.

“Around one million troops will be transitioning into civilian life,” said Michael Dakduk, who served in the Marine Corps from 2004-08, had tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and used his GI Bill benefits to complete his education at UNLV. “And as these men and women transition into civilian life, with the help of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the number of student veterans on college campuses will surely increase.”

The article goes on to talk about the unique challenges our veterans face and the benefits of having veterans on college campuses. What is ACC doing to meet these challenges and our student veterans’ needs?

ACC has been recognized as a veteran-friendly school and the resources being marshalled to assist these students is wonderful to witness.  It is a work in progress and certainly not easy. Everything from hiring those who can assist in the financial aid/GI Bill maze, to advising on how to translate military experience into comparable course work, career counseling, mental health care counseling, and the creation of activities and clubs that would be of interest and benefit to our veterans goes into the mix.

My first time visiting with our Veterans Club was a great experience. As a member of the women’s auxiliary at a local VFW, I wanted to know if they would be interested in partnering with ACC’s Sustainability Club in support of a clothing drive benefitting the Clothing Room at Veterans Hospital. They enthusiastically agreed and we have had clothing coming in non-stop. Lori Tigner, ACC Anthropology Faculty and Sustainability Club Faculty Advisor, also heartily agreed and now ACC enjoys a great partnership with the VFW. The VA hospital representative cries every time these boxes of clothing arrive. These are the moments when we see how veterans impact and contribute to the community spirit of ACC.

I also asked if any veterans would be interested in doing some trial testing of a new placement test. Not only were they interested, but they also knew of other non-veteran students who could benefit from testing. Those students were finally able to test into classes and begin college! The compassion and outreach to others is a hallmark of our student veterans.

Shortly thereafter, I was honored to be asked to be the Veterans Club Faculty Advisor. The enthusiasm that is expressed by the officers is inspiring. It could easily be a full-time job if we tried to do everything they want to do. This semester, there is a patriotic t-shirt contest, an open house, a BBQ to raise money for an emergency fund for veterans, and food bank collections to name just a few. Floor stands – decorated with the flags of all military branches – have also been purchased for display at appropriate events.

Here is a small glimpse of those who serve our veteran community. Stephanie Beecher, our Student Life Specialist, meets with the Veterans Club often to make sure events run smoothly. Tammy McGinnis in Purchasing has been ordering prizes for competitions. Gina Wenzel-Garza in Financial Aid makes miracles happen every day so veterans can take advantage of their benefits. Joseph Slonka, Paralegal Department Chair and veteran, helped organize a panel of student veterans who spoke at a well-attended employee professional development session. Eric Rogers in Admissions and Records came down to the ACC Veteran Services Center after that meeting and offered his services. Eric is instrumental in getting credit for prior learning approved. Vice President of Student Affairs Lisa Matye Edwards, who has a long line of Marines in her family, and Financial Aid Director Joel Laos recently approved the request for ACC to become a Chapter of Student Veterans of America. Billy Thais (Cashiers Office) and Evan Malone (Adjunct Biology Faculty) are both veterans and engage with student veterans whenever possible. Kim Larson-Cooney in Community Education wants to do a financial planning course for veterans. Victoria Sauber (CIS/UNIX Faculty) has advocated for the needs of veteran students, and Jennifer Husum (Assistant Director of Student Life) plans to facilitate a leadership course for the Veterans Club. There are also a number of student veteran work studies who spend time and energy on all of our students’ behalf well beyond their scheduled hours of work. Finally…thanks to our Marketing, Web and Communications team for this opportunity to blog about the ACC Veterans Club. It is greatly appreciated. You don’t have to look far to find someone who will provide resources or assistance at ACC.

This is the heart of ACC, those who stand with you in the moment of either great crisis or great success, those who see the story beyond the picture, and those who help by walking with you to the destination. Our veterans fought for our country, have a story and have a home at ACC. I hope you will stop and hear their stories and share yours with them. Please stop by the Veteran Services Center in M1630 to see all the other resources that are available.

Written by: Dawn Stratton, Director of the ACC Testing Center and ACC Veterans Club Faculty Advisor

Honoring Those Who Returned and Those Who Sacrificed All This Veterans Day

Military Grave at Fort Logan National Cemetery

photo by Josie Mills

As a person who has never experienced the loss of a loved one through service to their country, it is something that I watch from my bird’s eye view as a funeral director and witness the ocean of emotion and tears that comes from the grief of losing a son, daughter, husband, or wife. Many times I have pondered that although those families are burying one loved one, the service members are burying friend after friend after friend.

The only analogy that I can come up with is imagining arriving at the college and hearing that a student, staff member, or faculty died last night, and multiplying that scenario over and over again. My heart breaks for the soldiers who continue to serve our country day after day in spite of their grief. Grief that they can’t fully process because if they stop long to think about the loss it may be overwhelmingly paralyzing. It is with gratitude to those who serve that we acknowledge them on Veterans Day.

An online search for grief and support for military families includes a plethora of resources for widows, including www.militarywidows.org, and Young Widows or Widowers; and for parents, children, and siblings, at www.va.gov. This is just a sampling, there’s plenty more out there. But what I had the hardest time finding is who is taking care of the grief of the soldier who came home alive when some of his friends didn’t. The most comprehensive site I found is TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. They offer a myriad of service member support programs including: Peer Support, Grief Support, Trauma Support, Suicide Support, and Vet Center Counseling, just to name a few.

So when thanking a Veteran for their service this Veterans Day, remember to take a moment to remember all of those who have served, including those who died in service to our country and those they left behind.

by Martha Thayer, ACC Mortuary Science Department Chair

Veterans View – From Soldier to Student

Jeff Fogg, President of ACC's Veterans Club

Jeff Fogg, President of ACC’s Veterans Club

I am not what most would call a “traditional student”, in fact, I’m the older guy at the back of the classroom; an Army veteran who has found a home here at Arapahoe Community College.

My first week of school, I was nervous to say the least, but with the encouragement of my wife Krysten and the motivation of our child on the way, I needed to succeed. This was my opportunity to start my education and pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a lawyer. My nerves, as it turned out, were unfounded, because with the help of ACC’s student veterans and the College’s Veteran Services Center, I am doing it.

Ever since my discharge from the Army, I have been distant from my veteran status because – although I served honorably – I felt that the Army did more for me than I did for it. I can’t nail down one specific amenity ACC offers to its student veterans that has made the difference, but rather, a combination of services and values. From the veterans lounge on the first floor, to Dawn Stratton (Veterans Club Faculty Advisor and Testing Center Coordinator) and Ariel Mendez (Financial Aid Advisor and VA Certifying Officer) up on the second floor, ACC has to be one of the friendliest schools around.

It may be difficult to understand from an outsider’s perspective, but I’ve struggled with “personal space” issues. When someone is walking closely behind me, I become very anxious. This was, in fact, what was keeping me out of school.

When I started at ACC, I met a fellow soldier who experienced these same feelings of personal-space anxiety. Thanks to the compassion and understanding of other student veterans, as well as Ariel and Dawn, this anxiety began to slowly dissipate. It’s difficult to express how much this support has improved my morale. I was made to feel welcome and safe during my first year at ACC thanks to their support and patience, and my guarded mannerisms began to diminish. I hope I can provide other student veterans with the same comfort.

As President of the ACC Veterans Club, I work alongside some of the most dedicated veterans, with a focus on helping other vets achieve their goals at ACC and beyond.  Beyond ACC? With the extraordinary faculty and staff ACC has to offer, leaving behind such an amazing support system can be a daunting thought. From an emotional standpoint, members of our Veterans Club understand this dilemma, and we work together to connect with other vets on a peer-to-peer basis to encourage transferring to a four-year school, or even entrance into the civilian workforce.

When our current members recently began revitalizing ACC’s Veterans Club, we were encouraged by the College’s amazing faculty and staff. My hope is that our new regime, along with future members, will continue to reach out and assist student veterans with servitude in their hearts.

by Jeff Fogg, President of the ACC Veterans Club