Kirkwood honors student-veterans at May 16 event, highlighting support services and new Purple Heart scholarship program
It might be the crisp haircuts or the distinctive “camo” fatigues and backpacks they carry. It might also be the swift, in-charge way they walk across campus.
Those and other indicators are everywhere at Kirkwood Community College, showing that military veterans are a notable part of the student body. College support via the GI Bill and an official military-friendly designation at Kirkwood are other factors that have former military personnel choosing the Cedar Rapids college as the go-to spot for their post-service learning.
To date, Kirkwood officials conservatively estimate about 3,200 former service personnel have taken courses at the college since the founding years in the 1960s.
To recognize current and past student-veterans, the Kirkwood Foundation is sponsoring a recognition luncheon Friday, May 16 at 11:30 a.m. at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center. Veterans are welcome free of charge to the event, to honor their past service.
Keynote speaker for the event is Colonel (Ret.) Ken Rizer. A 25-year officer in the U.S. Air Force, Rizer served two tours of duty in the Mideast as a combat pilot and commander. He is also familiar with the role of student-serviceperson, as a graduate of the Air War College, the University of Stockholm in Sweden, and most recently earning an MBA from the University of Iowa. He currently is Senior Vice President of Operations at Goodwill of the Heartland.
Kirkwood’s efforts to support military veterans in their studies have earned the college the recurring designation as a Military Friendly School. An announcement in the fall 0f 2014 marked the fifth straight year that Kirkwood earned the designation.
Kirkwood Veteran Services Coordinator/School Certifying Official Vicki Terronez points to the 800-plus veterans enrolled at the college in the preceding year as proof that Kirkwood is going above and beyond for those who have served the country.
“Our veterans are forever telling me how appreciative they are to have the convenience and one-on-one assistance of a full-time VA rep.,” said Terronez. “At Kirkwood we help them navigate their VA processes and also assist with admission, registration, financial aid and referrals to other veteran resources. They like knowing where to go and who to talk with. It really helps ease the anxiety of transition.”
One current student who seconds those thoughts is Dennis Clark. The 11-year Army vet thinks Kirkwood has “the best veteran support system in the state.” That was a deciding factor in his decision to begin his studies after a medical discharge ended his Army career in late 2010.
“I appreciate the small class sizes at Kirkwood, and the support from their Veterans Assistance people means a great deal to me,” Clark said.
For Clark, his Kirkwood graduation this month will not be the end of his studies. He plans to continue at the University of Iowa, pursuing a double major in English and art. He eventually hopes to be involved in the university’s creative writing graduate program.
Beyond the direct veterans’ assistance with forms and guidance, Kirkwood also has a new scholarship program directed to veterans and their families. Early in 2014, the Kirkwood Foundation announced a major gift that established the Purple Heart Scholarships.
An anonymous couple gave to college $350 thousand to establish the scholarship fund, making financial aid available to wounded servicepersons or family members over a five-year period.
The Purple Heart Scholarship, founded with this considerate contribution, honors and supports those who earned the Purple Heart, or their spouses and children. Scholarship recipients will have their tuition and books covered for their entire two-year program at Kirkwood.
More information on Kirkwood’s services for military veterans is available from Vicki Terronez, 319-398-5633, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Further information about the Purple Heart Scholarships at Kirkwood is available from Jody Donaldson, scholarship and alumni director, at 319-398-7186.