Veterans and First-Generation Events and the Importance of Those Celebrations
Written by Isabella Cerveira
November is a festivity month for Cuyahoga Community College. Besides, during the fall break, to celebrate Thanksgiving, there are two other events for two groups of students that deserve to be recognized by the college and the community: the Veterans and the First-Generation students.
The National First-Generation Students is celebrated nationally on Thursday, November 8th, and Friday, November 10th; it closed on Friday to anticipate the commemoration of the National Holiday, Veterans Day, on Saturday, November 11th, 2023. In addition, Cuyahoga Community College has two extra motives to emphasize those two celebrations; for consecutive years, the college won the 14th Military Friendly School designation and First-gen Forward, which is a recognition of the commitment that the institution has towards students who are the first of their families to aim to have a college education. The college promoted weekly events on each campus from November 1st to November 14th, 2023.
The events hosted on the Eastern campus were extra meaningful considering that the Dean, Dr. Todd Kitchen, is a Veteran and a First-Generation student.
The interviewee was Dr. Kitchen, who was hired as a Dean of the Eastern Campus in 2021; he is a military veteran who served in the U.S. Army from 1989 to 1998 and was deployed to the Persian Gulf region from 1990 to 1991 as part of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Dr. Kitchen expressed how vital those events are for the college and the students. In addition, he presented good news for the future.
Congratulations to Tri-C for earning its 14th Military Friendly School designation! Can you tell us about specific things Tri-C does to keep this recognition, like helping veterans graduate?
Dr. Kitchen: So, it’s a comprehensive set of services. What I mean is that the office is dedicated to helping military veterans understand their educational benefits. Veterans can access funds to help with tuition, fees, books, housing, and related expenses. However, they need to be registered in certain classes, have a degree plan, and follow a degree path. This office ensures that students are supported through the registration process, complete their paperwork on time, register for classes, attend them, and succeed as students at Tri-C.
Being a veteran yourself, how did your experience help make good services for veteran students at Tri-C? What tools help veterans and their families when they finish their military service?
Dr. Kitchen: That’s a great question. Unfortunately, when I returned to College as a nontraditional student and a veteran, I received very little assistance from the colleges. Part of that might have been my fault because I couldn’t find the veteran support. It wasn’t visible. To put it differently, I couldn’t find any offices supporting veterans throughout my college experience – three degrees, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate. I never had a person come up and say, “You’re a veteran. Do you know you’re entitled to these things?” So, I think that influenced me to ensure that veterans know that at Tri-C, we have people, an office, and support all around the College specifically for them. As the manager of our veterans’ office now, they know they have my full support because I am a veteran. I was a veteran who had to figure out College on their own. They know I will support them so that as many veterans as possible can never figure this out alone.
Can you talk about how important it is to earn those recognition awards?
Dr. Kitchen: Sure, this Military-Friendly School distinction signifies that Tri-C values military veterans. We demonstrate that value by providing services, systems, and support to care for veterans and their families when they decide to come to college.
To conclude, Under the leadership of Dean Dr. Todd Kitchen, there were and still are many celebrations in November at Cuyahoga Community College radiating with a celebration of diversity and achievement. The college’s commitment to honoring Veterans and First-Generation students during this season goes beyond the ordinary, marked by the prestigious 14th Military Friendly School designation and the First-gen Forward recognition; The college also provides for those students the tools and guidance for them to achieve their academic goals.
Images were taken from the Tri-C website on December 1, 2023