On Wednesday, Oct. 6 the Grand Rapids Community College Veterans Center was officially unveiled in the ribbon cutting ceremony.
U.S. Representative Peter Meijer, GRCC Veteran Success Coordinator Patrick Coleman and President Bill Pink all gave brief speeches about the grand opening, and what the center will provide going forward for veterans at the college.
“Our college has always been a place where student veterans are welcomed and supported,” Pink said during his speech. “This new Veterans Center will allow us to take this service to the next level.”
Meijer, an eight-year Army Reserve veteran, was born and raised in the Grand Rapids area. He was deployed to Iraq in 2010 to serve as an intelligence adviser. Meijer was asked by the Collegiate how it felt to have the opportunity to be a part of a historical day for those who have or are currently serving in the military.
“It’s both heartwarming and inspiring at the same time, seeing the dedication of not only the community, but also GRCC,” said Meijer, R-Grand Rapids. “There have obviously been veterans going through GRCC for a very long time. But as we turn the page and mark the end of 20 years of global war and terror and the Iraq war, we’re going to keep seeing folks coming out who want to get ready for the next chapter of their lives.
“Having a unified point of contact, talking to the administration, there’s real value in having that centralized point,” he continued.
When asked if there is enough awareness surrounding the necessity of veteran services at colleges across the nation, Meijer said, “I think that there is, but I don’t want to say there was a lack of awareness before. I do believe having a dedicated space on campuses allows veteran interaction for a civilian student that wants to learn more and connect with veterans so they can share that information.”
Coleman, a 13-year Army veteran, was appointed as the Veteran Success Coordinator in the middle of the current semester. As the leader of veteran services, Coleman is aware of how essential these types of services are for military personnel.
“I want to be welcoming and accepting so they can approach me without hesitation… and feel at home,” Coleman said.
Following the brief speeches, the ribbon cutting ceremony took place. Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, GRCC Board of Trustees members David Koetje, Kathleen Bruinsma and Sheryl Siegel, Pink, and Meijer all took part in cutting the ribbon.
Ryan Bronkema, a 17 and half-year National Guard veteran, was one of a handful of military personnel in attendance. Bronkema noted how exciting this opportunity is for service members as the resources well over a decade ago were nowhere near what they are today.
“I attended GRCC about 12-13 years ago, and the resources that we have today that are available for us are greatly improved from what we had before,” Bronkema said. “There wasn’t places or things like this set up to help people go through the process… (finding) assistance can be troublesome at times, and having these resources is great for GRCC.”
The Veterans Center is located in Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall on floor G2, Room 002. More information about veteran services on campus can be found here.