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PHCC named one of top schools for veterans
School 30th on Military Times Edge list
Friday, November 30, 2012
Patrick Henry Community College tied for 30th on Military Times Edge magazine’s best career and technical colleges for veterans for 2012-13.
But you don’t have to read a magazine to hear PHCC’s praises. Just ask Kent Wright.
Wright, a partner in construction businesses for many years, is a veteran who took classes for years at PHCC. Later he went back to college through a veterans vocational rehabilitation program and earned associate degrees and certificates at PHCC and a bachelor’s degree at Franklin University. He now is an adjunct faculty member for PHCC, in its building trades program.
In compiling the rankings, Military Times Edge magazine considered some 140 schools that completed a survey featuring nearly 150 questions. The survey asked about support services, academic policies and financial aid beneficial to student veterans, according to the magazine’s website.
According to an email from Johnny Buck, a spokesman for PHCC, the “Best for Vets” survey completed by Rosemary Bowers, PHCC’s veterans coordinator and a financial aid specialist, indicated, among other things:
• PHCC does not track military/veteran status specifically among its students in record-keeping. However, in 2011-12, 69 students used Veteran Affairs education benefits and 12 students used Defense Department tuition assistance benefits for active-duty personnel. “So we probably had more than 81 veteran/military students, but we know for a fact we had at least that many,” Buck wrote.
• in 2011-12 three veteran/military students graduated with degrees.
• PHCC’s full tuition price in 2011-12 fell below the military tuition assistance cap of $250 per semester hour. The PHCC rate is $117 per hour.
• PHCC offered optional training on military and veterans issues to PHCC faculty and staff who do not work primarily with military/veteran students.
• The college has a Student Veteran Club, advised by Bowers.
• The college has conducted special events/programs for military/veterans, including an annual event on Veterans Day that features a speaker, health screenings, discounted meals, area organizations setting up informational booths, etc.
According to information from Buck, in 2011, PHCC was named a “Military Friendly School” by G.I. Jobs magazine, placing PHCC “in the top 20% of all schools nationwide,” according to the award.
Jeff Porter, dean of student development services at PHCC, said: “My goal is to have veterans feel supported. Whatever resources they are lacking, we try to jump through hoops to make sure they get them. Most veterans are extremely self-sufficient and just want to get on with their degree as fast as possible.”
If they have been in combat, they may have issues to deal with when they come back home, such as a different lifestyle and the need to be acclimated, said Lois Collier, a counselor at PHCC. She noted she provides, among other services, one-on-one counseling and makes referrals to mental health professionals and other community services if needed.
Kent Wright’s story
Wright, 61, of Leatherwood, said he has been in the construction business since he was 17.
He served 18 months in the Army, including a tour in Vietnam. He got disabled but didn’t do anything about it until he got older when his legs started bothering him and cramping up several years ago, he said.
The construction business is physical work every day, such as pushing, pulling and climbing, said Wright, who was a partner in Wright and Blankenship contractors from 1978 to 1996 and a partner in and operator of Wright Contractors from 1996 to 2010.
He went to a VA Hospital, which told him about a vocational rehabilitation program. A couple of years later, he was told to be interviewed in Roanoke for the vocational rehabilitation program. He was 58 at the time. He found out he was entitled to 27 consecutive months of services.
He had taken business management courses at PHCC in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. So he enrolled at PHCC to pursue an associate degree. He worked with Jeff Porter and adviser Lloyd Cannaday to apply courses he already had completed and to take other courses needed, including some math, drafting and some other courses.
As of December 2009, he still lacked one class at PHCC but was entitled to 16 more months of vocational rehabilitation services. So he sat down with Porter and applied for admission in a bachelor’s degree program (business administration) at Franklin University, taking some of the courses online.
He graduated from PHCC in May 2010 with two associate degrees (general engineering technology and business management) and several business-oriented certificates. He graduated from Franklin University, based in Columbus, Ohio, on Mother’s Day 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Obtaining the degrees “managed to keep me working,” he said.
This is his second year as an adjunct faculty member for PHCC. Last year he taught dual-enrollment high school students carpentry and blueprint reading and adults at night. This year he is teaching dual-enrollment high school students.
Wright, who suffers from shrapnel in the left knee, hearing loss and other issues, said working for the college helps him make ends meet after struggling a few years financially. Also, he said, “It gives me purpose. It makes me get up and get out in the morning.”
He praised Porter, Cannaday and others at PHCC and Franklin University for working with him through the veterans vocational rehabilitation program.
Looking back on his last few years, he said, “It all fell in place for me. It worked out really great for me.”