To improve services for more than 220 military veteran students, those with disabilities, former foster youth, and many others on campus, California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) has received two U.S. Department of Education (DOE) TRIO grants totaling $2.3 million for its Student Support Services programs.
One of the five-year DOE grants has been allocated to CSUDH’s new Students Support Services—Veterans (SSS-Veterans) program. The $1.1 million grant will be used to add professional and student support staff to help improve veterans’ college retention and graduation rates. The program also provides specialized academic tutoring for veterans, advice and assistance in course selection, and access the full-range of student financial aid programs and resources.
“We are one of few campuses in the nation to be awarded the SSS-Veterans grant. The funds will give us the opportunity to better serve the men and women who served and continue to serve their country so heroically,” said William Franklin, vice president for CSUDH’s Division of Student Affairs.
To be eligible for the SSS-Veterans program, applicants must be first-generation, low-income students enrolled in 12 or more units at CSUDH, and have earned an honorable discharge from military service. Until the program is fully developed, SSS-Veterans will operate in conjunction with CSUDH’s Veteran Student Programs and in partnership with the existing Federal TRIO Programs on campus, according to Franklin.
“The grant is going to help us reach more vets and enable us to get out there better to let them know the program is here, and here to help,” said Solomon Harvey, an SSS-Veteran student assistant and Marine Corps. veteran who served two tours on an aircraft carrier.
Adam Castillo, an SSS-Veteran student assistant who retired from the Marine Corp. and served two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan and “just about everywhere else in the world” during his 20 years in the military, believes the grant will help bring more “structure” to the program.
“The grant is definitely going to help the top leadership in the program so they may create more structure, as well as help pay for more faculty and staff for the program,” said Castillo, who is majoring business administration.
The second grant of $1.2 million is being used to re-fund and improve the university’s existing Student Support Services (SSS) program. The program provides students a myriad of services, including academic coaching and advising, peer mentoring, computer lab access, cultural exploration activities, and academic and skills development workshops.
Both SSS and SSS-Veterans are funded by TRIO, which is comprised of eight federal outreach and student services programs that identify and help low-income individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds that are first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities progress from middle school to post-baccalaureate education.
“The critical piece is how we deliver those services.” said Danielle Chambers, director of Student Support Services and coordinator of the Toro Guardian Scholars program. “The SSS team encourages students to adopt a positive mindset—to value and embrace their experiences and where they come from instead of viewing them as obstacles to overcome.”