CO Veterans Summit at CMC This Friday
CMC finds creative ways to support veterans, military
By Stefanie Kilts, CMC Correspondent
Educational professionals and student veterans will travel to Colorado Mountain College (CMC) in Leadville today – Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 – to attend the Colorado Veterans in Higher Education Summit, an annual conference.
The attendees will discuss strategies and best practices for creating veteran-friendly college campuses, said Skip Lee, dean of student affairs at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville.
“These students tend to come to college very motivated to learn,” said Lee, who was instrumental in bringing the conference to CMC for the first time. “But the transition for veterans into college is harder than many people realize.” He noted that 88 percent of veterans who attend college end up dropping out. “We need to do all we can to do to help with the transition.”
Lee said he will be making a presentation on how CMC has partnered with a local mental health agency, the West Central Mental Health Center, for counseling services for student veterans in Lake County.
Lee’s work is part of the college’s drive to expand services to veterans returning to the classroom. In January 2012, college trustees approved a special discounted tuition, equal to the college’s low in-district rate, to all veterans and active-duty military, as well as their spouses and dependents, regardless whether they live within or outside of Colorado.
“In conversations we’ve had with veterans, they have expressed a strong need for education so they can get back into the workforce,” said Dr. Jill Boyle, the college’s senior vice president. “We wanted to provide a tuition discount to assist veterans and their families in returning to college.”
In addition to the tuition discount, Lee has implemented a veteran student liaison program, initially at the campus in Leadville, to provide more assistance for student veterans. The program will expand this year to CMC’s two other residential campuses, in Steamboat Springs and Spring Valley (near Glenwood Springs).
The Leadville campus, which already houses the Lake County Veterans Administration office, has added a part-time position held by a veteran student who works directly with fellow student veterans on anything from questions on VA benefits to providing assistance with faculty and courses.
“Veterans sometimes aren’t inclined to ask a lot of questions because they’ve learned to be self-sufficient,” Lee said. “Veterans are most likely to seek out one of their own.”
He said having a student veteran liaison on campus who is of a similar age to and has dealt with similar issues faced by many veterans encourages them to reach out for assistance. In addition to providing on-campus assistance, the liaison plans activities for veteran students, such as traveling to a Rockies game or writing Christmas cards to units in Afghanistan.
Partnerships support veterans’ healing
By opening up its campus in Leadville, the college has also partnered with nonprofit organizations that support the healing of veterans. For instance, Colorado Mountain College will provide housing assistance for a group of injured veterans taking part in the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race Aug. 10.
Lee said the organizers of the Leadville race reached out to the campus to find housing for 25 veterans traveling with Ride 2 Recovery after they could not find lodging in Lake County. Ride 2 Recovery is a nonprofit that helps injured veterans improve their health and wellness through individual and group cycling. Cycling has proven to be a catalyst in the recovery process by providing a new physical challenge while concurrently helping to cope with the psychological challenges they face.
Lee said CMC extended a special lodging discount to the veterans to stay at the campus’s residential hall.
And in June, for the fourth consecutive year the college partnered with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc. – Fort Carson to provide a four-day fly fishing program for disabled active-duty military personnel and veterans.
The national nonprofit, founded at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2005, emphasizes the skills of fly fishing and fly tying to help disabled active-duty military personnel and veterans regain the use of their damaged bodies, increase their fine motor skills and build their self-confidence.
Local organizations, businesses and individuals in Leadville generously donate funds, venues, meals and supplies to facilitate the worthwhile endeavor, Lee said.
“This is all part of CMC’s commitment to continue to provide services for veterans,” he said.