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College fair helps veterans navigate higher education

By Matthew Skog

On Oct. 20, representatives from more than three dozen colleges, universities, and veteran support agencies will be on Chemeketa’s Salem campus to answer your questions.

“This is a little bit different than a regular college fair,” Jon Terrazas, Chemeketa’s veterans services coordinator, said. “It spawned from trying to provide direction for our veteran students here who are considering options for higher education. The recruiters at the regular college fairs really don’t have the background to provide information about veterans benefits.

“For instance, when I went to college I was under the Montgomery GI bill. Depending on what service a veteran was in if they were active duty, reserve, or guard, how many years they put in things of that nature will dictate what benefits you’re eligible for.

“The problem that veterans have when they come to these college fairs is that they’re not sure how their benefits relate to those colleges. We wanted to ensure that the colleges that we invite bring individuals who can speak about veterans benefits, so they can ultimately be able to say what costs your benefits should cover.”

While the focus of the event is on helping veterans, all members of the community are welcome to attend.

“We want to be inclusive to the rest of the student body,” Terrazas said. “We want all students to be able to embrace these opportunities. We asked each college to bring a representative from the admissions and records office who would be able to give regular students guidance as well. This way we can serve both the regular student body and the veteran student body.

The event will also feature a special guest speaker. Congressman Kurt Schrader will be at the fair to speak on the topic of veterans advocacy at 10 a.m.

In addition to representatives from various colleges and universities, representatives from veterans service agencies will also be on hand to offer support for veterans.

More than 20 veterans service agencies will be in attendance, including:

  • American Legion;
  • Department of Labor;
  • Department of Veterans Affairs;
  • Easter Seals;
  • Habitat for Humanity; and
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Non-student veterans from the community are welcome as well.

“This is open to our entire community,” Terrazas said. “This is not just for students. We’re providing $8 meal vouchers to all veterans regardless of if they’re a student or not to come and eat with us in our cafeteria.”

Terrazas said that students and veterans alike shouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of events like this.

“It’s a great opportunity and a wealth of support services for veterans, but when you have 19 colleges come knocking at your door, it’s a full student body affair,” he said. “Maybe not everyone is going on to higher education, but this is an opportunity to get information to make an informed decision on what they want to do with their professional development.”

The Veterans Services College Fair will start at 10 a.m. on Oct. 20 in the Bldg. 2 Student Center.