Category Archives: FEATURES

Resources, community, and success in the Veteran’s Center

By Simon Thomas

As Veteran’s Day approached, Whatcom set up a memorial displayed at the Heiner Center to honor those who served in our country’s Armed Forces.
The display, however, did not provide a sense of pride in our country. It did not remind onlookers of the strength and character those who serve our country have. Instead, the display case contained 22 pairs of army boots, side by side.
The vacant boots represent the daily suicide rate for military veterans. According to a study done by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, “the number of veteran deaths by suicide averages 22 per day.”
As disheartening as this statistic may be, Whatcom’s Veteran’s Center provides evidence that most veterans have a different outlook after they serve. The Veteran’s Center provides opportunity and support for those seeking education when returning to civilian life.
Jarid Corbitt, the assistant director of Veteran Services, has been working with veterans at Whatcom for seven years. He said the Veteran’s Center supports 250 veterans annually. Corbitt helps veterans register for classes, apply for scholarships, and handle busy schedules.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs provide services which help veterans extend their education after their service. Corbitt helps out veterans attending Whatcom apply for any benefits they might be eligible for because of their veteran status.
Matthew Nolan, is a Whatcom student and Marine veteran. After leaving the Marines Nolan came to Whatcom to continue his education.
Nolan, 24, saw his friend and fellow veteran student, succeeding at Cornell University after coming to Whatcom and aspired to reach for similar heights.
Nolan, nominated himself for a scholarship to Dartmouth College, provided by the Posse Veterans Program that guarantees full tuition for every veteran student selected.
The Posse Foundation selects 10 students, or a posse, and guide them as they attend and graduate selective universities. The Posse Foundation has been operating for 27 years, but began the initiative to help veterans in 2012.
President Barack Obama once said “the students that are selected form a ‘posse’ and are provided with extra support, and end up graduating from selective colleges with a very high success rate,” in an interview with “The Chronicle of Higher Education.”
According to the Posse Foundation, 2 million U.S. veterans are currently eligible for education benefits.
“The whole point of the Posse Foundation is that it is a non-traditional application for students and individuals who don’t have access to a college like Dartmouth,” Nolan said.
After an interview at Fort Lewis, the largest military base in Washington, and a Skype interview Nolan will meet the other finalists in New York to discuss the scholarship. Nolan will know by Dec. 16 if he will receive the scholarship.
“Veterans are not just here to do what we can to succeed, but also to lead and inspire,” Nolan said.

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Phi Theta Kappa

By Cailean Mcleod

Whatcom’s Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) club helps students pursue their career and educational goals.
19-year-old PTK member Ryan Kussmann said, “Having access to all these different resources from advisors to apply for scholarships and write college applications is pretty helpful.”
Carol Reed-Jones, advisor for PTK, said PTK is a support organization for students with strong educational motivation and solid work ethic.
Reed-Jones said that each college has its own specific PTK chapter. Whatcom’s chapter is called Alpha Xi Nu (AXN).
Reed-Jones said PTK honors four core values called Pillars. Those four pillars are service, scholarship, fellowship, and leadership.
Reed-Jones said because highly capable students can feel very lonely in their academic journey, supporting them and letting them interact with similar students is the key.
“This is an organization where students can meet like-minded people,” Reed-Jones said.
Kylie Terpsma, co-president of AXN said to become a member students need to have a 3.5 GPA or above. Students also have to pay a $70 one-time membership fee, which covers access to the scholarship websites and chapter activities.
“We have specific scholarships, leadership skills for careers, and you also gain a little more fellowship among students; it’s really amazing,” Terpsma said.
Terpsma said The Jack Kent Cook Scholarship is a scholarship that PTK routinely gives out, and the PTK Transfer Scholarship is available for students who want to transfer to Western.
In addition, PTK has its own scholarship called the Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship. On the website, the scholarship is offered in categories pertaining to degree tiers: associates, bachelors, and masters degrees.
“Being able to connect with individuals that you might normally not be able to connect with is really helpful,” Kussmann said. He added that he met another person who shared a similar career path during the beginning of his membership in fall.
Kussmann seeks to major in Computer Information Systems next year at Whatcom.
“At one point the students formed groups of similar majors to check in with each other and see how they were doing in meeting their goals,” Reed-Jones said.
Reed-Jones said the club is beneficial for networking and support among students.
“There are a number of resources which PTK has on it’s website; there are links to scholarship websites, some of which are available for anyone to apply to, such as CollegeFish and WashBoard and others as well as scholarships specific to members,” Reed-Jones said.
Reed-Jones said scholarships that specifically encourage service learning and public service, such as volunteer work, help students build skills and work ethic. They can then add that scholarship work to a resume, which gives them a greater chance of finding a job.
“It’s my belief that PTK also has a fifth pillar, and that’s Community. Community service is something that we live by,” Terpsma said.
The students of the PTK club have done various projects to fulfill their pledge of community service.
Reed-Jones said the PTK club did a food drive for the Bellingham Food Bank last year and collected over 400 pounds of food.
“We also had Project Santa where we joined with Whatcom’s Criminal Justice Club and the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office to help low-income families get food and clothing last December,” Reed-Jones said.
“It would be nice to see more people in PTK because of the people who support you and the resources you can get from other members and advisors,” Kussmann said.

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