Post Classifieds

Veterans Affairs drives new initiatives

By James Dykeman
On March 1, 2019

The Veterans Affairs department services 350 students who are veterans of different branches of the military. Veterans Services Coordinator Romona Taylor said, “The bulk of (the 350 students) Kirkwood students are from either the National Guard or the Army, many of whom choose to attend Kirkwood, Iowa’s second largest community college, because of the presence of our Alumni in boot camp.”  

Taylor is a former non-traditional student who came to Kirkwood after a career in telecommunications. While pursuing a degree, she said she began working part-time in the Veterans Affairs Office where she found a home in assisting veterans, eventually taking over fulltime when her predecessor retired. 

Taylor is no stranger to service as her father is retired Navy and she has family in the Army and National Guard. She loves working with veterans because “at the end of the day, they are so grateful, polite and respectful. They are a population that appreciates the time and effort put into their success.”  

Since taking over, Taylor has focused on driving a new initiative to modernize the experience of recertifying for benefits each year by integrating functionality into MyHub so that veteran students can access these services from anywhere without having to schedule an appointment in person. She has also been a part of a project to get the VA to fund non-credit courses, such as welding and coaching certificates, from over 20 programs at Kirkwood. 

Veterans may not always be aware of services they can access beyond tuition assistance, as Taylor explained. “We have a veterans lounge on the 3rd floor of Iowa Hall, with sofas, computers and community counselors that come by from the VA and Veterans Center,” she said.  In addition, there “are scholarships available to veterans of all branches of the military, and all conflicts, such as the Purple Heart, American Legion of Iowa Foundation and VFW Auxiliary Post 788 scholarships.”  

Taylor’s advice she has for students who have not served when approaching those who have. She said, “Many vets are pretty private about combat experience, they will share when ready and it is a good idea to respect them and their sharing preferences”.  

Going into next year, Taylor said she looks forward to continuing to modernize the experience for veteran students and would like to see the addition of a club on campus that speaks to the unique experience of veterans, as well as the addition of a Facebook group or other social media presence to keep everyone connected and talking with one another.  

Ramona Taylor Veteran Services Coordinator and School Certifying Official work on items concerning veterans. PHOTO BY JEFF SIGMUND.

 

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