By:Emily Balli – Freelance
Maricopa Community Colleges will be celebrating the outstanding academic accomplishments and degree completion of students who have served in the military at the Maricopa Veteran Student Convocation on May 7.
The GCC website describes convocation ceremonies as important celebrations to recognize special groups of students.
“Each year Maricopa’s employees sponsor culturally relevant celebrations for students who have traditionally been under-represented in higher education. These special Convocations and End-of-Year Celebrations add to the significance of graduation in powerful ways.”
This is only the second year the district-wide event has taken place. Last year, the event was held at Phoenix College and about 100 veterans and participants attended the event. This year, the event is going to be hosted at Glendale Community College, with veteran students from all 10 MCCCD schools to be honored, and in total about 150 people will be attending.
Joe Mercer, an academic adviser at GCC’s Veteran Services Center and a United States Air Force veteran, is looking forward to the esteemed individuals and speakers that will be participating in the event this year.
“Our VIP list is staggering and attests to the importance our entire district places on serving the educational needs of those who have served our country. Chancellor Dr. Glasper, the Vice Chancellor Dr. Harper-Marinick and college presidents and deans will be attending. Also, Mr. Gutierrez, a member of the our Governing Board will be attending. Our keynote speaker [is] Chaplain (Col) Bonnie Koppell,” Mercer said.
Mercer, who is also a founding member of the Maricopa Veterans Education Taskforce (MVET), thinks the event and MVET are important because they give veterans pursuing an education at MCCCD schools the recognition they truly deserve.
“One of our [MVET’s] top priorities was to bring recognition to all of our veterans, students, employees, faculty and professional staff across the entire district,” Mercer said.
All of the MCCCD schools have continuously become more military friendly over the years. According to GCC’s Veteran Services homepage, GCC is ranked eighth among veteran-friendly 2-year colleges. This year, and for the past three years, GCC has also been recognized by Victory Media as a military friendly school.
A 2014 Cronkite News article also spoke about GCC’s dedication to becoming a veteran supportive school. In addition, all but one of the MCCCD schools have also been recognized as military friendly schools by Victory Media for many years, as well.
Robert Cavan, a retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major, and an employee of the MCC district since 2001, has always been involved with veteran students during his time at MCCCD and has always hoped of having a district-wide convocation for veterans.
“When MVET was in the early stages of creation I took the opportunity to join and used them as my platform to create a veteran convocation… I expressed my interests and…the group voted me in as the first MVET Vice-President and I have been involved in many MVET sponsored events…. I’m very proud of all members involved and others who are willing participants to support our great constitution group,” Cavan said.
Mercer is similarly proud of how far Maricopa colleges have come in veteran appreciation and of MVET for finally putting together a district-wide event to celebrate the accomplishments of the districts veterans.
“The convocations for veteran students finishing up a degree or certificate have been around for a while at one college or another. It had not been consistent, some colleges would do one if there were enough students. Some other colleges just didn’t bother at all… This year we… are looking forward to a grand celebration of student accomplishment,” Mercer said.
The event will be held on May 7 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at GCC in the Student Union in room 104. For more information about the Maricopa Veteran Student Convocation visit the GCC website and look under events.