June Olsen writes: On January 31, 2012, the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles issued a press release announcing the awarding of $200,000 to eleven separate organizations in the Los Angeles area. Several of these organizations deal with reintegrating Iraq-Afghanistan war veterans back into civilian society, and some deal specifically with providing these veterans further educational opportunities through colleges and universities online and on traditional campuses.
The reintegration of veterans into civilian society is of utmost importance. The lives these individuals lived while serving the country are usually vastly different from the lives led by civilians. War veterans, in particular, often have a number of traumatic experiences that the average civilian could hardly imagine. In a 2010 pilot study performed at the University of California, Santa Barbara, submitted by Chris Andrew Cate, MA, Michael Gerber, PhD, and David L. Holmes, the authors note that, “All veterans will reintegrate into new civilian roles, but those veterans who suffer from battle wounds may face more challenges in their reintegration.” Battle wounds, whether physical, mental, or emotional, can put a strain on returning veterans while they readapt to civilian life. As such, it becomes especially important for civilian society to help veterans through the reintegration process.
Programs aimed at supporting veterans pursuing higher education can be especially helpful. While military training may help veterans find work after leaving the service, a college degree will greatly strengthen their odds of successfully entering into the civilian workforce and broaden their available career opportunities. While many veterans receive government financial aid to help with the cost of education, some may need additional mental and social support. As the UCSB pilot authors explain, the differences in real-life experience can make it difficult for veterans to interact with their peers. Moreover, the study states, “Research has suggested that the gap between high school and college due to student veterans’ time in the military may make adjusting to the academia more difficult.” Counseling and other programs help relieve this burden.
Many of the veteran-related programs recently supported by the Jewish Community Foundation of LA help provide this additional support to veterans entering a higher education setting. The Adopt-A-College initiative received $20,000 in grant money from the foundation specifically for the purpose of helping returning war veterans balance education with the rest of their social reintegration. The money will go towards counseling and support groups for approximately 500 veterans at six area community colleges, helping those veterans who may be struggling with their higher education experience
Outside the Wire, part of the United States Veterans Initiative, received $20,000 to put toward the initiative’s efforts in providing “counseling and support for service members and their families suffering from mental health issues.” The money will directly help 20 veterans attending local community colleges, as well as 100 service members at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos.
The Jewish Community Foundation of LA also awarded grant money to veteran programs that do not specifically deal with education; however, the initiatives do indirectly help returning veterans pursue higher education by helping them with their overall reintegration experience. ZERO TO THREE’s Military Families Programs received $20,000 from the foundation that will go towards training “45 professionals to deal with the stress and impact of parental military deployment and parents’ reintegration into society upon very young children.” In easing the familial stress placed upon returning military parents, these veterans will have more time and energy to spend on furthering their education and securing the future of their families.
Similarly, Operation Welcome Home, started by New Directions, Inc., received $20,000 from the Jewish Community Foundation to provide “case management, legal aid, job training and referrals, family reunification, mental health therapy and housing assistance to 50 veterans of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.” These veterans suffer from various mental health troubles and may or may not be looking to further their education. In helping them treat their problems, however, the operation opens the door for those interested in pursuing college.
The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles supports veteran education largely by providing grant money to programs that provide counseling and support for veterans in need. Many of these veterans are actively involved in seeking higher education. Even those who receive aid without presently enrolling in further education are receiving mental and emotional support that will make it easier for them to do so later if they so choose.