Grant helps vets at Clark College

New money will aid school's Veterans Resource Center

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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Did you know?

• About 700 veterans enroll at Clark College every quarter, and about 500 of them use GI Bill benefits to help pay for tuition, fees, housing, books and supplies.

Veterans attending Clark College will benefit from the first in a series of $30,000 grants to be awarded by the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington.

The check was presented at Thursday's annual Veterans Celebration at Clark College. The money will enhance services in a new Veterans Resource Center that will take shape in Gaiser Hall.

"We have an office with one staff member," said Matt Rygg, Clark's dean of student success and retention. When the new center is built, the $30,000 grant will fund a part-time academic and career adviser, Rygg said.

"We're hoping this person can do some academic coaching of students, and partner with the career center and disability support services and the counseling center" to increase support for veterans enrolled at Clark College, Rygg said.

Clark College also provides other resources, including part-time employment through the Veterans Affairs work-study program.

The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington will award five more $30,000 grants to other organizations through 2014 as it observes its 30th anniversary, said Jennifer Rhoads, president of the foundation.

"Each of these six anniversary grants will be focused on breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty in Southwest Washington," foundation spokesman Maury Harris said.

"The Clark College grant will do this by serving veterans, a population that tends to be more at risk for unemployment and falling into poverty," Harris said.

Keynote speaker at Thursday's celebration was Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Eric Sheline, 6th Engineer Support Battalion, based on Swan Island in Portland. Since joining the Marines in 1987, Sheline has participated in operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, was squad leader of an anti-terrorism team in Mogadishu, Somalia, and was deployed twice to Kuwait in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Recipients of the other five grants will not be announced in advance, Harris said. The grants will be awarded every other month, with the Community Foundation making its next presentation in January.

The six grants totaling $180,000 represent a step up in the foundation's anniversary philanthropy. In 2009, the Community Foundation marked its 25th anniversary by awarding five grants of $25,000 each, totaling $125,000.