MCC again named veteran-friendly school

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published September 22, 2021


MACOMB COUNTY — For the sixth consecutive year, the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, or MVAA, has named Macomb Community College as a certified veteran-friendly school.

The program recognizes higher learning institutions for their commitment to supporting student veterans and their dependents in utilizing their GI Bill and navigating other educational resources.

MCC offers a number of services to student veterans through its Office of Veteran and Military Services, located at South Campus in Warren. The MVAA awards gold-, silver-, and bronze-level status. MCC was awarded gold-level recognition for the 2021-2022 school year.

“We’re very proud of this award. We’re glad to stand up for our student veterans,” Macomb Community College Veteran Services Director Kara Fields said. “I’m very happy. It’s definitely a team effort at the college.”

The MVAA awards schools that have established six of the following seven criteria: having a process for identifying current student veterans; active student-operated veterans association; veteran-specific career services, resources, advising and/or outcome monitoring; on-campus veterans’ coordinator; system to evaluate and award credit based on prior military training and experience; monitoring/evaluation of student veteran academic retention, transfer and graduation rates; and veteran-specific website.

MCC’s Office of Veteran and Military Services is available to students who served in the military or are still active duty. Coming back to civilian life after military life can be an adjustment that can last a long time. Some veterans might be dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder or have trouble sleeping at night. Some veterans are looking for work and have families to support. Currently, there are 546 student veterans attending Macomb.

Officials work with each veteran to determine his or her needs, which could include tuition support, financial aid, GI bill questions, career counseling, information on disability services, tutoring, and additional assistance from local veteran service organizations, including the Macomb County Veteran Services in Clinton Township and the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit. Veteran students also connect with each other while on campus, and services are extended to families of the veterans.

“We have student veterans in their late teens and 20s who are currently serving. We have students that served in the Vietnam era and are coming back to school for whatever reason,” Fields said. “What I feel is challenging is that some of our students have a hard time admitting they need help because of their military training. Some days are tough. I love being able to get to know our students. It’s very rewarding. They signed on to serve our country. They gave their service.”

When Sterling Heights resident Daniel Diedrich was discharged from the U.S. Army in 2017 after serving for eight years, he was working as a restaurant manager. However, the job didn’t work out as planned.

“I had my GI bill to fall back on,” Diedrich, 35, said. “That’s what brought me to Macomb.”

When he first came to the college during the 2019 winter semester, Diedrich “spent the semester wandering aimlessly” before deciding to pursue social work.

“I was still very much in the transition process cognitively in the military,” he said. “When I got back to the classroom, I felt I was sticking out like a sore thumb. I did feel a bit awkward in the beginning.”

But soon the combat veteran began visiting MCC’s Office of Veteran and Military Services on a regular basis and became more comfortable on campus.  

“It’s very welcoming to veterans. When I discovered it, I saw it as a sanctuary,” Diedrich said. “You’re going to find veterans, active duty and reserves, family members and staff. They are very knowledgeable about how to help veterans maintain benefits they may or may not be aware of. I stand behind everything they do.”

Diedrich graduated from MCC with an associate degree in pre-social work. He is now attending Oakland University on his way to earning a bachelor’s degree in social work.

“I noticed when I was doing my own transition process a slew of social injustices especially in terms of people who endured trauma in the military. I witnessed a lot of my friends experience no jobs, they didn’t apply for disability benefits, maybe even homelessness,” Diedrich said. “I wanted to make a difference in the veterans services community.”

The MVAA serves as the central coordinating point for Michigan veterans, connecting those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and their families to services and benefits throughout the state.