Lake Washington Institute of Technology is a place where veterans feel welcome, and that support grew ahead of Veterans Day with the opening of the college’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success (CEVSS) on Nov. 10.
“This is where the veterans can support each other,” said Bobby McGee, a computer security and network technician student and Army veteran who transfered to LWTech from ITT Tech after the latter unexpectedly closed in September. “Everything is catered to the veteran.”
The center is staffed by CEVSS Coordinator Ahmad Bennett, who helped McGee and his fellow ITT veteran students get settled at LWTech. “He told us, ‘We will figure this out together,’” McGee said.
The services offered at the CEVSS include financial aid assistance; tutoring; assistance with finding community resources including housing, medical care and behavioral health counseling; and overall military-to-civilian transitional support. Bennett, who is a Navy veteran and a former social worker, was hired last year to administer those services as part of LWTech’s financial aid team.
“I get to go home feeling like I did something today; I get to pay it forward,” Bennett said, going on to cite the influence of another fellow veteran, Lucas Hopkins, in helping him transition to civilian life. “He gave me that encouragement. … I hope to try to do that here.”
Bennett also is a member of the Veterans Advisory Board formed by Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, who was one of several local officials who spoke at the center’s opening. She was joined by Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen and King County Director of Veterans Affairs Matthew Mauer, who spoke on behalf of Senator Patty Murray. Bennett and McGee also addressed the crowd, and LWTech employee Marcus-Antonio Gunn sang the national anthem.
“The college is committed to every student, but I think it’s our civic duty to especially support veterans as much as we can in their transition to the workplace,” LWTech President Amy Morrison Goings, who herself is the daughter of a Vietnam veteran, said. “The financial aid team is exceptional in their attention to detail in moving veterans through all the different nuances of the GI Bill.”
The cost for starting the center, which is located in a remodeled classroom in the East Building on the Kirkland campus, and the services it provides are funded by a three-year grant (which started on Oct. 1, 2015) from the U.S. Department of Education totaling $367,000. For more information about LWTech’s veterans services, visit lwtech.edu/admissions/veteran-services.