Courtesy of Gavilan College Superintendent Kathleen Rose:
This month we observed Veterans Day, which our student veterans chose to recognize by holding a family BBQ in San Juan Bautista. Counselor DeWitt Stuckey organized the event with the veterans’ club that included food, games and fellowship.
In recent years the numbers of student veterans returning to community colleges like ours has been increasing. This year at Gavilan we have had more than 185 student veterans attending. California leads the nation in the size of our veteran population. That number is expected to increase dramatically as more military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan complete their service. A college education has become an absolute necessity for veterans returning to civilian life, and community colleges provide the majority of this education.
I wanted to learn more about some of the veterans currently enrolled at Gavilan, and was happy that Yevgeniy Malyasin and Kay Navarro were willing to share their stories. Meet two of our student veterans:
Yevgeniy Malyasin: I was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1994. I immigrated to the United States in July of 2000. I was raised and attended public schools throughout Salinas and Gilroy. During the 2008 recession, my mother was unable to keep up with her mortgage payments and lost her home due to bankruptcy. This enabled me to go into foster care with adoptive parents. After getting out of foster care, I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 2012. My job in the Marines was a machine gunner in the infantry field. I served for a total of six years stationed in Camp Pendleton, California, with three deployments. I always try to emphasize to other students and veterans that attend college to keep a high level of self-discipline, optimism, and consistency to put their best effort in school.
I am currently a veteran that works as a peer mentor at the Welcome Center. I have always wanted to attend college to further my education and achieve my scholastic goals. I chose to participate in Gavilan because I wanted to start my educational journey through a community college to get accustomed easier to the college lifestyle. I have heard positive reviews about Gavilan and its services. This motivated me to start the registration process and become a student at Gavilan.
The Veterans Resource Center was a very welcoming and helpful office when I first checked in to see Dewitt Stuckey for a counseling appointment. Dewitt was able to provide me guidance and registration assistance with my first semester at Gavilan. I go to the Veterans Resource Center occasionally to do homework, seek counseling, and converse with the other veterans. Currently, my major is Communication Studies. Gavilan has helped shape my educational path by instilling confidence, knowledge, and guidance towards my educational endeavors.
Kay Navarro: I am 27 years old and currently a health science major here at Gavilan. I am also the President of the Student Veterans of America chapter here on campus, as well as a work-study at the VRC. I chose Gavilan College as I am from Hollister and to be honest, as a single mom, the housing allowance was very appealing to me vs that of other schools around Hollister.
I was in the U.S. Navy for four years, serving only a little bit of time on sea. I was stationed in San Diego for the entire four years. I come from a very proud American family, for my father and his father before him also served in the military. Now I am a single mom, full-time student, very active in the SVA and the VRC, as well as help care for other members of my family who need the help. I want other students to know that even though I have a lot on my plate away from school, I try not to let it stop me from reaching my goals, and that they too can do the same. It just takes faith in oneself to do so. I want other veterans to know there are many more here on campus and we aren’t an “ol’ boy club”, where we just sit around and talk about the good ol’ days and we try to make sure everyone is welcome both in the VRC and SVA.
Though we are very grateful for the space we have, it is very difficult to cater to the amount of veterans we have here on the main campus. With close to 400 veterans in attendance here at Gavilan, the VRC is lucky to be about to hold five outside of the work-study students, the counselor, and our certifier. With our numbers being so high it is hard to see when the VRC is full and someone tries to come in and cannot find space to work on schoolwork, eat food, or even just take a break. In my time here I can honestly say that there is a lot most veterans do not know, such as the tutoring that is offered and that the VRC is here for Veterans and their dependents.
Coming back to school after almost eight years is a scary thing for me. I am just glad that the people and friends I have met here have been extremely understanding and greatly helpful with my transition. I thank you all for that.