Sunday, June 29, 2014

Around Town: Pasadena City College gets a well-deserved salute

Around Town: PCC gets a well-deserved salute 

here are a lot of reasons why Military Times ranked Pasadena City College (PCC) as the top community college for veterans in California.

The annual ranking is based on “student success and academic quality.” Schools are evaluated on “university culture, student support, academic quality, academic policies and financial aid.”

Every year, PCC makes it to the top 10. This year, PCC ranked second in the nation.

No other California school, two-year or four-year, made the top 10 list. None of them. Just our own PCC.

Why is PCC such a gem? One reason is Patricia D’Orange Martin, the PCC veterans coordinator and founder of the PCC Veterans Resource Center. Martin has a master’s in counseling and has been an associate professor and counselor at PCC since 1989, but lots of academics and administrators have degrees and titles.

Martin is special because she has a heart for the student veterans. She does her professional best to create programs that allow veterans to succeed.

Last year, state Sen. Carol Liu named Martin as a Woman of the Year, noting that Martin’s “work in student-veteran outreach programs has paved the way for other colleges throughout Southern California.”

Martin has had the great fortune to create an effective program in a supportive environment. Several of the PCC leaders, most notably former Pasadena mayor Bill Thomson, are veterans. She also has a top notch staff. Carol Calandra, the PCC Veterans Resource Center caseworker, is a can-do, thoughtful improviser who is totally dedicated to assisting veterans with their transition into college life.

There’s another reason why veterans who attend PCC have the potential to go far and do well. Right here in La Cañada, there’s a cohort of quiet philanthropists at La Cañada Presbyterian Church. These anonymous angels continuously and continually assist our PCC student veterans.

The LCPC angels are shy. They are humble. They are open-hearted. I won’t name them, but listen up: we know who you are and we salute you.

Their help goes beyond basic needs. As you read this, doors are being opened for PCC student veterans. Many of these young men and women enlisted at the age of 17 or 18. They deserve every educational, social and cultural boost. Let’s let them stand on our shoulders.

America in 2014 is an era of mixed results. CNN and the Wall Street Journal are now investigating allegations that at least 40 veterans have died waiting for treatment at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System, and that the Phoenix VA covered up the wait with a secret waiting list. Then there’s the Las Vegas VA, which left a 78-year-old female veteran crying in pain in the ER lobby for four hours and 45 minutes.

It’s not about lack of funding.

Why do some institutions do well for veterans and others do so poorly? Why is PCC the only school in California to make the top 10? It’s not for lack of funding.

Is it an unwillingness to serve others? Is it the vestiges of Vietnam?

As those debates continue, La Cañada is a point of light. The leaders at our local community college have created a strong program. Martin and Calandra have garnered tremendous community support. The seeds planted by the angels from La Cañada Presbyterian Church are already bearing fruit.

The program at PCC is a model for others. Kudos to Patricia D’Orange Martin. Double kudos to the La Cañada Presbyterian angels.

May 7, 2014

No comments: