By Mike McKissack
College of DuPage, Lewis University and Joliet Junior College have partnered to form a peer mentoring program that will provide opportunities and support for veteran students.
Through the Student Veteran Peer to Peer Mentorship Model from Community College to Four-Year University program, which is sponsored by a $50,000 McCormick Foundation grant, the three schools have identified peer mentors and trained them to provide mentorship to fellow veteran students. College of DuPage Veterans Services Manager Jose Alferez said the program’s first year has mainly been self-contained as well as developing initial mentorship relationships with junior and senior class Lewis students.
“So far, our peer mentors have helped connect students to resources and social activities while providing camaraderie they may have thought was left behind along with their military uniform and active service,” he said. “We will continue the program into the new year and plan to expand social activities to connect Lewis and JJC students to our COD group.”
Alferez said COD’s peer mentors serve as ambassadors for the Veteran Services office because students are often more receptive to resource information when it comes from someone that is actively using the resources themselves.
“Our student mentors provide advice on how to navigate the first year of college, create good strategies for success and ways to avoid pitfalls,” he said. “The mentors also point mentees in the right direction of resources in and around the college not just related to education but also general veteran resources like health care and housing.”
Designed to engage veteran students early in their educational career as well as to help with retention and degree program completion rates, the mentorship provided by Lewis students provides a student perspective on how to prepare for transfer to any four-year institution, Alferez said.
College of DuPage recognizes a number of tuition-based veteran education bills and programs, including the Montgomery G.I. Bill for Active Duty, Survivors and Dependent Educational Assistance Program, the Reserve Educational Assistance Program, and the Illinois Veterans Grant. COD also accepts the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, which provides tuition assistance, a monthly housing allowance and a yearly book/supply stipend for qualifying veterans.
College of DuPage is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Serving approximately 26,000 students each term, College of DuPage is the largest public community college in the state of Illinois. The College grants nine associate degrees and offers more than 170 career and technical certificates in over 50 areas of study.