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From Service to the Classroom

Portland State opens Veterans Resource Center

Donovan M. Smith | 11/13/2013, 12:14 p.m.
Carolina Gonzalez-Prat (left) welcomes a veteran student and his girlfriend to the new Veterans Resource Center at Portland State University. Photo by Donovan M. Smith

With a growing number of men and women in the military returning to civilian life after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Portland State University is looking to accommodate them with educational services and resources.

Home to over 30,000 students, PSU boasts the highest number of military veterans of any other school in the state. Recent numbers show that there are currently up to 1,100 enrolled vets at the downtown university at any time.

This summer, the university opened a Veteran’s Resource Center to help the growing number of military personnel transition to the classroom with success.

According to Carolina Gonzalez-Prat, one of the two people who navigate the center’s operations, the primary function is assisting vets with the G.I. Bill which provides servicemen and women with a range of benefits, including lower tuition fees.

Gonzales-Prat says that with government shutdown in October, a lot of military-students’ benefits were at risk, and reminded both college officials and former military of the importance of the VRC’s advocacy for them.

She said before the shutdown, you wouldn’t think twice about the education benefits disappearing, “Like we’ll be fine no matter what. But the shutdown went two weeks and people were freaking out. That’s rent for them, that’s benefits.”

The Veterans Center also sponsors a College Success Class for the returning warriors. The class is more focused on the transition from being a soildier to a student, something Gonzalez-Prat who served 5 years in the military herself knows is crucial to veterans performance in the classroom.

“Everything’s not life or death anymore. So it’s just kind of shifting your mindset, of how to interact with people. And asking for help,” she says of the veterans she serves.

--Donovan M. Smith