Tag Archives: Simon Thomas

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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Historic event detailed in “What About Those Promise?”

By Simon Thomas

Moments before dress rehearsal, while lights are being set up in the high ceilings of Syre Auditorium, the members of “What About Those Promises” gathered at the tables in front of the stage as they fine tune their traditional dress.
With the set-up crew yelling over each other and performers practicing their rolls, Darrell Hillaire, writer of the play and organizer of the event, sat with his aunt, uncle and cast members at a table amid the chaos.
Hillaire talked to the younger cast members about how to handle the handmade cedar baskets, and elder members of the cast reminded the younger members the importance and significance of the story they are telling. Hillaire said that in the Lummi community, oral tradition and passing cultural values to younger generations is paramount.
Hillaire’s play, “What About Those Promises,” tells the story of when Hillaire’s great-grandfather traveled to Mukilteo by canoe with other Lummi people to sign the Point Elliot Treaty of 1855 with the Washington Territory Government, guaranteeing them rights to land and money that the Lummi people did not receive.
The play includes a Lummi creation story told and performed in the Lummi language, as well as storytelling of how the tribe hunted and lived.
The week surrounding Bellingham’s Coast Salish Day, which is the second Monday of October, is a period of recognition for the Lummi people in the Whatcom community.
Two years ago the Bellingham City Council voted to change Columbus Day to Coast Salish Day. Bellingham followed the trend of many American cities in recognizing the people who lived in our region before foreign settlers came.native-american-color
To help the Whatcom community celebrate the Lummi people, Director of Intercultural Affairs and Leadership, Betsy Hasegawa invited Hillaire to put theplay on at Whatcom Community College for the first time this year.
“It’s been at Bellingham High School, Silver Reef Casino, and then we went to Seattle University, and we had it at our community building.” said Hillaire. The play was performed in Syre Auditorium on Oct. 14 and Oct. 23 to a crowd of over 200, according to Hasegawa.
“It was a wonderful performance, we had a full house.” Hasegawa said.
While Whatcom students volunteered and got to be a part of the production, Hasegawa said the play being performed here was “an opportunity to get to know who our neighbors are, but also who were the original people here.” Hillaire said that this performance can help community members understand and appreciate the Lummi Nation for who they really are.
“They can do that through the use of the language. A number of our folks speak our language. They’ll get to appreciate song and dance, and learn and recognize the importance of keeping your word and how that’s supported by the United States Constitution.” said Hillaire.
Hillaire and Hasegawa said they are excited to see what they will do next for the community, and will be looking for future opportunities for Whatcom Community College and Lummi Nation to work together.
“We do a number of exchanges and engagements with the Northwest Indian College.” Betsy said. “The student executive board is going to come to Whatcom and teach us to play stick game.”
Hasegawa also said Whatcom will be more involved in more peacemaking circles and community building activities alongside Lummi Nation.


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