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September 2022 Featured Campus: Mt. San Jacinto College

A collage of 3 images showing the Mt. San Jacinto PAVE Team at 3 different events

Mt. San Jacinto College is this month’s Featured Campus! “Campus Champion Terry Russell has attended our summer All-Campus Calls and shared a lot of their best practices. They have a very active and supportive campus and local community! Their partnership with the local VFW post is strong and offers free membership to student veterans. The VFW also sponsored their graduation celebration last spring! The team on campus has a monthly luncheon for PAVE and other VA work study students,” says Riva Szostkowski, former Program Coordinator.

In addition to Terry, the MSJC PAVE team includes Team Leaders Brian Garcia-Cardona, Jim Desmond, Kyle Stears, and Rickie Ortiz-Ross, Veteran Services Coordinator Martina Moncada, and six Peer Advisors. They serve a community of about 500 student veterans and 260 military-affiliated dependents.

Since launching PAVE two years ago, the MSJC team has organized many regularly occurring events, building engagement not just with their military-affiliated community on campus but also with the rest of the student body as well as with their local VFW post and local businesses. In the spring, their team brought together student veterans, JROTC students, and Boy Scouts to paint the home of a local veteran, an event they dubbed “Paint Your Heart Out.” They partnered with Lowe’s and Home Depot to receive donated paint, and the homeowner was so grateful that they hosted a barbecue for the painting volunteers at the end of the day.

In October, they will host a chili cook off event using supplies purchased by their friends at the VFW. VFW members and other students at MSJC will vote on the best chili and those who participate will get a chance to win bragging rights for their former branch of service. These events bring the community together and strengthen bonds. “Camaraderie and teamwork is the biggest reward and it spreads like wildfire,” says Terry. Clearly proud of the team and the work they do, Terry says he particularly values how flexible and action-oriented they are.

But they aren’t just serving the community through these novel events; their Peer Advisors and Team Leaders are also connecting fellow student vets with much-needed resources. Recently, Brian, a Team Leader, helped a new student who hadn’t started receiving his VR&E benefits by providing warm handoffs to resources to help them pay rent and access MSJC’s food pantry. These simple actions go a long way towards making a significant difference in the lives of student veterans at MSJC.

We love all the great things you are doing, Mt. San Jacinto College!