Seattle Central is where people with different backgrounds pursue higher education and career paths. UMOJA (Swahili for community), MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement), and TRIO were established to assist and advocate for specific student demographics with navigating classes, financial aid, and college. Veterans are a demographic who have been a priority to Central.
The history of student veterans at Central goes back to before the college was established. The campus was first known as Broadway Edison High School in 1902. Shortly after World War II ended, the city closed the high school and transformed it into Edison Technical School, where returning soldiers were given the opportunity to transition back into civilian life through education and career training. When Seattle Central was created in 1966, the college continued to offer services to returning veterans and still does.
The Veterans Center offers a wide variety of services including tutoring, peer-to-peer mentorship, navigation through financial aid, and overall advising. Student Veteran Advisor and Program Coordinator Kerry Hollifield came on board in 2017.
“It was a grant that the Veterans Center had won to hire an advocate for veterans on campus,” Hollifield said.
Hollifield served in both the Marine Corps and the Navy before working at Central and now provides advice on classes, degree choices, and potential careers. He also assists with transferring offers and recommendations with jobs, internships, and professional schools. One of his goals is to expand their outreach program and strengthen collaborations with other outside partners through the King County Veterans Program.
“We definitely want to see the Veterans Center grow as far the veteran population becomes more aware of who we are and what we offer,” he said.
Seattle Central also has a Veteran Support Specialist named Ysrael Adam-Walker. Walker explained, “I came in a little prior but was not active until 2017 when Kerry was aboard.” Before Walker became the Support Specialist he was a student at Central, and served in the Marine Corps. During this time, he utilized the resources that the Veterans Center offered. Now, he guides student veterans through their VA benefits and funding for their education. Walker says navigating the VA and G.I bill, established in 1944 to help returning soldiers pay for school and training programs, is a common issue student veterans face.
Both Walker and Kerry agree that veterans navigate the same issues as a lot of regular college students.
“The issues we have are parallel to every student,” said Hollifield.
He and Walker collectively listed choosing the right classes, housing and food insecurities, transitional challenges, technical challenges amongst older veterans, and substance abuse as examples.
Walker wishes for the veterans center to grow and for veterans to feel comfortable at school regardless of when and where they served.
“We want to make them feel like they’re just as much a part of society as they were prior to them joining,” Walker said.
He also wants to further advocate for veterans at Seattle Central.
“In the future, the veterans center would like to have more dialogue with the program,” he said.
Currently, the center offers a lounge to its students where they can gather, connect, and study with each other. It is located on the third floor of the Broadway Edison Building. The Seattle Veterans Union (SVU) has a chapter at Central where student veterans are offered information about benefits and opportunities for community service along with student development. SVU also allows veterans to connect and network.
Recently, the Veterans Center has won a lot of grants, which has helped them hire more staff and hourly workers as well as provide more amenities to their veterans, like the food pantry, which can be found on the third floor. They are still working to provide a more welcoming space for their veterans, including a lounge with natural light, which would also benefit recently incarcerated students. They have also acquired a plot of land at the Beacon Food Forest, a community garden in North Beacon Hill next to Jefferson Park. Through volunteer work, they have made it a space where people can pick fresh fruits and vegetables.
Angelo Harper is a first year student at Seattle Central College perusing his AA degree for Journalism. Born in Seattle and raised in Shoreline, He wrote for his high school newspaper for two years before graduating and on the side he likes to write rhymes and perform under the stage name “Lil Fax Machine” where he has collaborated with local artists from the Seattle area on several tracks and a few music videos.