BY ARLAETH RAMIREZ
Student Veterans of America, a national veterans organization, is re-energizing the veterans center in room RV150 at Pima Community College Downtown Campus.
The organization, which started in 2008, has organized to protect the GI Bill from cutbacks. The bill benefits helps veterans cover costs of education or training.
Air Force veteran Kyle Hughes said there are close to 32 interested individuals willing to help the community including students, veterans, active duty and family members.
“The best advocate for you is the person next to you,” Hughes said. “Specially if they’ve been through the same things as you.”
Hughes said people know the veterans center mostly for its barbecues, which they plan to continue.
However he also mentioned education going along with it. The veterans center wants to inform everyone about the rights that they have and provide outlets if they have any grievances.
“The veterans center isn’t only for the leadership, but also for the community as a whole. The more people we have the better grasp we have about what is happening on the ground,” Hughes said. “If we can’t identify the problem, we can’t take the steps to fix it.”
Veterans are working toward a social media campaign and also hope to set up centers at every PCC campus.
The number of veterans accessing benefits to attend traditional class schedules over the past two years is close to a $2 million dollar enterprise, Hughes said.
“There’s a lot of money coming from the veterans administration and using the benefits, and it’s been somewhat discounted,” he said.
The group’s goal is to help others succeed and make their voices be heard, Hughes said.
“When people raise certain issues, they may have fell through the cracks and at the center we want to hear anyone that’s been disenfranchised,” he said. “If they feel like they’ve been wronged, need more information or just someone to listen to them.”
PCC is a community that helps each other out not only through school but also in life, he added.
“There’s guys that haven’t been to the hospital and have a lingering issue from when they were in and the big community of PCC helps overall with health wellness and brotherhood,” Hughes said. “If you got nobody to lean on, it’s going to be a tough ride.”
Vietnam-era veteran Jim Woloshin said having an organization like the Student Veterans of America would have made a difference for him.
“I wish we had this when I got out,” Woloshin said. “It’s wonderful.”