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CUNY opens new vets center

"Our veterans and members of the reserves are an important part of the college who bring to this campus a unique perspective that enriches us all," said Queens College President James Muyskens alongside Franco last Thursday. "From now on, with our Veterans Support Services Program, we are going to see that they have all the assistance they need, be it advice on choosing a course of study, career and personal guidance, help with physical problems or just a sympathetic ear to listen to their concerns."Part of a CUNY-wide effort, Veterans Support Services at Queens College brings together seven departments within the school: the Academic Advising Center, Office of Career Development and Internships, College Counseling and Resource Center, Continuing Education Program, Health Service Center, Office of Special Services and Registrar. Each boasts a specially-trained liaison familiar with veterans' education benefits and services, whether they are available on or off campus."We don't really have to invent the whole wheel, we can look back into history to guide us," World War II veteran and Queens College alumnus Arnold Franco said.Special Services Director Mirian Detres-Hickey said taking a holistic approach rather than a purely academic one to the program is crucial."Returning veterans, who have multiple needs, require specialized support to adapt to college life," she said.Detres-Hickey said veterans can begin receiving support from the program the moment they are accepted by the school.Services provided by the program include educational benefits coordination, career development, and academic advising and educational planning to maintain veterans' benefits. Short-term personal counseling, campus and community referrals and health and wellness services are also available.Wilfred Cotto, a 28-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and current coordinator of veteran's affairs for CUNY, said it is important for institutions of higher education to reach out and understand how tumultuous the transition from a war zone to everyday society can be."Life is not the same when you come back. We've got to figure things out, some struggle with it, some do better than others and don't figure things out at all," Cotto said. "The nation has to do a better job of reaching out to these veterans and I think CUNY is on the leading edge of that."Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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