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CCGA strives to be more military-friendly

By Anna Hall | The Brunswick News, Ga. | Published: February 14, 2016

(Tribune News Service) — The College of Coastal Georgia strives to be a military-friendly campus.

The college recently placed 62nd nationally in the sixth annual Military Times "Best for Vets: Colleges 2016" rankings, an annual comprehensive survey and assessment of veteran and military student services.

Some 600 colleges took part in the recent detailed survey, which was released late last year.

That honor alone is a highlight of which college officials and faculty can be proud, said college president Greg Aloia when the recognition was handed down in November.

"At the college, we have a commitment to making sure our veterans have every possible resource to make their experience as seamless and unburdened as possible. It is the least we can do for those who were willing to put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms," Aloia said.

But officials and faculty aren't settling for simply that recent honor. They are taking action to further their efforts to make their campus more friendly to military members, veterans and their families.

On Thursday, Aloia stood outside the president's office doorway ready to put his stamp on the college's work in being a military-friendly campus. The decal Aloia placed on his office's front door showed he was the first college faculty member to complete a new military-friendly training program, which requires three one-hour sessions.

The sessions run a range of training topics, from teaching how to make military students with PTSD more comfortable in the classroom, to helping them through the application and financial aid process with specifics to military benefit programs, said Kimberly Burgess, admissions counselor at the college with a specialty in admitting adult, military and transfer students.

College enrollment includes about 450 military or military-family students and 150 veterans. Total enrollment is about 3,200 students, Burgess said.

"It's our hope these decals can help us further the conversation and show our military students that we care, we hear them and we want them to succeed," Burgess said. "With our military and military-family students, there are ways we can adjust what we do to make it easier for them to feel comfortable in our classes, to understand the process of entering our school and to understand the community resources both on and off campus that can be useful for them."

For example, Burgess points to a traditional classroom setting which may feature assigned seats and students facing the front of the classroom, their backs to the door. Often, military students with PTSD are uncomfortable sitting with their backs to the door.

Teachers who go through the training process offered at the school understand how to alter the set-up of their class to make PTSD-diagnosed students more at ease, Burgess said.

"These military-friendly decals are to be placed on teachers and faculty doors that have gone through the training process, which we hope to make a campus-wide effort with all faculty and staff participating," Burgess said. "It's simply an icon that says we care, we understand military, veterans and their families have unique needs and we are here to be there for them."

The training program will continue throughout the month with more to come. It's already gaining traction from college staff. So far, some 50 staff members have signed on for the courses, and more are encouraged to take part.

The college's website will be updated to include military-supportive decals, Burgess said.

"We hope to see these decals on doors campus-wide," Burgess said. "We are very proud of and aware of our military and veteran students and their families. This feels like the least we can do to show our support for them."

(c)2016 The Brunswick News (Brunswick, Ga.)
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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