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January 29, 2021

Ocean County Center of Excellence for Veterans Services to be Established at Ocean County College

Veterans, military personnel, OCC students, faculty and staff, and members of the wider community joined in “Ruck for Reason” in October 2019. A “ruck” is a hike while wearing a weighted pack — a physical endurance exercise utilized in the military

OCC is one of only 12 colleges and universities nationwide to receive a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to establish such a center.

TOMS RIVER, NJ — Ocean County College has recently received a $444,130 three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to establish a Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success on its Toms River campus.

The highly competitive grant was made to only 12 institutions of higher education nationwide, out of hundreds of colleges and universities that applied. The funding will open vast opportunities for veteran students at OCC. The Center will be directed by Ryan Luurtsema, assistant director of Veteran and Military Services at the College.

“At Ocean County College, we have an established Veteran and Military Resource Center and are proud to have earned the designation Military Friendly from Military Times magazine, meaning we provide the best education possible for veterans and their families,” says Luurtsema. “We are a premier location for all military and veteran resources and educational aspirations. This grant will up the ante considerably and allow us to provide even more services and opportunities for these students.”

The new Ocean County Center of Excellence for Veterans Services (OCCEVS) will provide a single point of contact to coordinate comprehensive support services for veteran students. The Center will provide support in various areas across campus, including admissions, registration, financial aid, academic and career advising, counseling, disability services and veterans’ benefits. Staff will monitor veteran student enrollment, persistence and completion and develop a plan to sustain the Center after the 3-year grant period has ended.

“We also will provide outreach and recruitment, financial aid, supportive instructional services such as tutoring, admissions/transfer help, personal, academic and career counseling,” says Luurtsema. “Events to ease the transition to campus life, support for veteran student support groups and organizations, coordination of academic advising and admissions counseling with military bases and national guard units will also be part of the mix.”

“This grant is a testament to the commitment of college leadership in prioritizing service to those who served us,” says A.J. Trump, Ed.D., executive director of Student Services. “We will be able to take OCC veteran support and services to a new level, becoming the premier institution in the nation for veteran student support.”

“Making the transition out of military life is not always easy, and support in all areas is important,” says Luurtsema, who speaks from his experience as an Army veteran. “The Center will offer meaningful workshops related to career and skills development, finances, transition to civilian life and more. Signing the discharge papers is only a first step in transitioning out of the military. It is a lifelong process, and we are here to help guide that experience.”

“The objectives of the grant are ambitious, but with the support provided by the grant under the leadership of Mr. Luurtsema, I have confidence that they will be achieved,” says Gerald Racioppi, Ed.D., vice president of Student Affairs.

Veteran students will be supported holistically — through academic, technological, social, emotional and physical services — while they attend OCC, and as alumni after they graduate. Faculty and staff will undergo special training sessions on how to best support student veterans, and the Center will expand program creation, mentorship and partnerships within the Ocean County community.

“Making the transition out of military life is not always easy, and support in all areas is important,” says Luurtsema, who speaks from his experience as an Army veteran. “The Center will offer meaningful workshops related to career and skills development, finances, transition to civilian life and more. Signing the discharge papers is only a first step in transitioning out of the military. It is a lifelong process, and we are here to help guide that experience.”

We are Ocean, and we are here for you!

PHOTOCAPTION: Veterans, military personnel, OCC students, faculty and staff, and members of the wider community joined in “Ruck for Reason” in October 2019. A “ruck” is a hike while wearing a weighted pack — a physical endurance exercise utilized in the military. OCC hosted the event to empower individuals to join in a walk with an intention; for mental or physical health or awareness of a nonprofit organization. The 2.5-mile route encompassed the campus. Similar events will be planned by the new Center.

Media Contact

Jan Kirsten
jkirsten@ocean.edu
732-255-0400 x2071

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