Cerritos College
Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

TM Digital Newsletter

TM TikTok

Student Veterans make an impact on campus

Listen to Chris Markowski, Tiffany Pifer, and Felipe Grimaldo’s interivew

“If you had told me three years ago that I would be where I’m at and I’d be speaking for all the students in the state, I would have said, ‘Yeah, right, I just want to get a job.'”

Twenty-six-year-old Felipe Grimaldo, who served as a U.S. Marine in Iraq, twice, between 2003 and 2007, recalls his experience as a first-semester student veteran, before being voted Cerritos College’s current ASCC president and student trustee.

“I was completely lost and I wanted to drop out. I said, ‘Forget this—I don’t need this right now. I just got out of the military and someone’s going to hire me.'”

Grimaldo attributes the decision to continue his college education to the encouragement he received from his wife, as well as from the Student Veterans Club, an organization he helped set up in efforts to assist fellow veterans who struggle to find a purpose while enrolled at Cerritos College.

“[Members] have the leadership and capability to look out for each other and the camaraderie that we have is a strong bond we build between us veterans, but we’re increasing it because all the members that come to our club become family.”

The Student Veterans Club has grown from 10 members in the spring semester of 2008, to 68 current members, some who do not attend meetings but stay connected through phone text and e-mail messages.

“Seeing it from the beginning to what it is now is ridiculous, but in a good way,” Club President Chris Markowski says about the growth in participation and membership.

Markowski, also a former U.S. Marine who served twice in Iraq, is most proud of the way members help each other with everything from math homework to moving.

“We network ourselves so we can give the best of what we have to each other and we offer it to all members,” Markowski says, also emphasizing that the club is open to nonveterans.

Aside from receiving such honors as the Spark Plug Award for the spring semester of 2009 and Special Interest Club of The Year for 2010, the Student Veterans Club has also helped in establishing the Veterans Resource Center, which opened its doors on Sept. 13.

“The main goal of the Resource Center is to help veterans with adjustment, then, to point them in the right direction so they can get the things they are entitled to, and the final goal is to provide a friendly environment that all veterans feel welcomed into.”

The center, open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., is run by four student volunteers and three employees of local veterans’ aid organizations, who also volunteer their time.

Club Treasurer Tiffany Pifer volunteers at the center and explains that Cerritos followed the model of similar institutions located at other colleges.

“A lot of our planning is coming from looking at what they’ve done and how they’re doing so we can incorporate that and add some of our ideas to theirs,” Pifer says.

Markowski recounts that in the past week and a half, the center has provided veteran-related services to 10 students, while an additional 70 people have received informal guidance in such tasks as enrolling for courses and locating classrooms.

The Student Veterans Club is now working on preparations for the college’s Veterans Day celebration, which takes place at Falcon Square on Nov. 10.

Grimaldo hopes to have local “VIPs” in attendance, such as Senator Barbara Boxer, Representative Grace Napolitano and maybe even Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The club hosts meetings on the first and third Tuesday of every month from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in SS139.

Story continues below advertisement
About the Contributor
Rebeca Vega, Staff Writer
Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Talon Marks Picks TM Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
Student Veterans make an impact on campus