ARC improves veteran services

Steven Poole, Veterans Affairs Club president and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder survivor, holds his original dog tags from when he first joined the Marine Corps more than 41 years ago. (Photo by Emily K. Rabasto)

American River College’s Veterans Club hosted a series of special events throughout the month of November.

With the recent addition of the Veteran Success On Campus group at ARC, Veterans Club president Steve Poole and other staff are working to use the campus’ new resources to build a stronger community among veterans at ARC.

“The school really wanted to make a push to improve (veteran) services,” said Daniel Avegalio, an ARC graduate and Marine Corps veteran with three deployments to Iraq. “We have one of the highest populations in the state of veterans using benefits. They wanted to have all these things (available), especially with the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan coming up and downsizing in the military. They really wanted to improve services. This actually happened all during the summer.”

Avegalio has served as a mentor to Poole during his time at ARC and helped initiate the improvements in Veterans Services, including a successful effort to bring a full-time  Veterans Affairs presence to the campus.

“I was the secretary for the VA club last year and we did a few things, but not as much as I would like to have seen,” said Poole. “Sometimes it takes a semester to ramp it up and get things going, but we have a lot of good things (now). I’ve made our mission statement, I’ve been to CAEB meetings and a lot of people have come the Veteran’s Services to help me get together a book return program for vets who come back to school.”

Poole and other new Veterans Club staff have also been working to provide special food services, study groups and general information to veterans who are not taking full advantage of the resources available to them on and off campus.

Ryan Feil, a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employee, began working primarily from ARC shortly after Avegalio’s work began, and has been instrumental in the campus’ efforts to improve services available to veterans.

“We put in to have Ryan, to have the VSOC program,” said Avegalio. “I was part of putting that together. Me, Ryan and Poole, we were part of the community that organized these events for the month, so we want to make the faculty and staff aware of the needs of veterans on campus.”

In addition to improving on-campus services, Poole, Avegalio and Feil aspire to create a stronger community among veterans internally. Study groups, luncheons and several other team-building activities are high priorities.

“We’ve never done this before, dedicating the whole month of November,” said Avegalio. “We’re going to be doing this every year now. Every semester we’re going to have events like this and different workshops for veterans only, then every November we’re going to have a big event.”

With ARC being the only school in Northern California with a VSOC program, it is also welcoming the opportunity for veterans from outside the Sacramento area to take part in these new events.

“Everything is still growing,” said Avegalio. “This is already one of the better places for veterans looking to come back to school, and as time goes on we’re going to keep on improving, so it’s a great thing.”

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