After relocating to the new Student Services Building, the Veterans Resource Center is ready to continue achieving its main goal: being a home away from home for veterans.

A row of standing flags against the ceiling-high windows leads the way into room 1940 in the Student Services Building (SSB). Freshly painted walls and sleek surfaces surround the office where a center table is utilized for bags, books and papers. 

Students here are collaborating and doing homework, fulfilling a purpose the Veterans Resource Center’s staff hoped to achieve since 2012.

The center is also one of the many offices that are still adjusting to calling the western side of the new SSB their home. It represents the supportive network and foundation for student veterans and their dependents on campus.

Elke Azpeitia, veterans services coordinator, has established a team of student and non-student staff members who consider each other family. 

“The veteran center is another place to call home,” said Samuel Kim, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) certifying official, who is a veteran. “It’s where you have brothers and sisters who are going through the same things as you and where camaraderie can be found.”   

Azpeitia said establishing close bonds with the veteran community is key to the center’s success and to helping students navigate their college years smoothly. 

Working together produces the familiarity veterans seek, said Kim Katayama, assistant coordinator. It’s the peer-to-peer approach as a civilian assists with a positive transition. 

Samuel Kim, Kim Katayama and Elke Azpeitia are the team making the Veteran Resource Center a home away from home. JESSICA ARAUJO | THE POLY POST

Every year the center applies for VA benefits which help cover costs associated with veteran or dependents’ education, monthly housing allowance, book and supplies income and more.

“If we aren’t approved by the VA our students can’t use their benefits,” Azpeitia said. “We can’t fall behind on the job because it affects the students’ lives.”  

Azpeitia said all the work comes to fruition come graduation day. 

“Day by day we see our students flourish,” Azpeitia said. “Almost like a diamond in the rough, after working on it you finally see it shine and sparkle.” 

Many veterans and alumni return to engage with the team to pay forward the help they once received.

Azpeitia remembered a lead veteran resource advisor and 2018 alumnus who was hired by the Raytheon Company of United States defense contractors. 

She said together, they put together a tour of the company for 30 students who were affiliated with the center and 12 of those students were eventually offered internship positions and full-time employment at the company.

“It speaks volumes on that relationship and trust that is always still there,” Azpeitia said. “It’s not about just being a passing student and just a number, you are a person to us.”   

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