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Jim Richardson | Vets find success at WVC

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Ryan Baze, U.S. Marine Corps veteran. (Photo provided)

During the last few years, the veteran population at Wenatchee Valley College has increased rapidly as veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have returned to seek opportunities in their communities. In recognition of that growth, the WVC Veteran Office has expanded to include a full-time veteran coordinator, a Washington Department of Veterans Affairs VetCorps volunteer representative, the Veteran Study Lounge and computer lab as a place for student veterans to study and connect, a student veterans’ club and a weekly study group. The WVC Foundation also provided $40,000 in veteran work-study scholarships from 2012-14.

The WVC Veteran Office helps student veterans transition from military to college life by connecting them with fellow veterans and providing resources to help them be successful in college.

“We welcome the opportunity to serve those who have served our country,” said WVC Veteran Coordinator Laura Murphy. “We are dedicated to providing educational support and guidance to our active duty personnel, veterans and their dependents. We understand that the VA system can sometimes be complicated and are here to assist our students.”

One veteran who found the help he needed through the support of the WVC Veteran Office and several Wenatchee Valley nonprofit organizations is Ryan Baze, an eight-year U.S. Marine Corps veteran.

Ryan was born in Washington, but spent most of his life in a remote Arizona town. After 20 years of physical labor in both the military and construction fields, his body was worn down.

“If I stayed, I realized I’d be doing the same thing in another 10 years,” he said. “So I decided to make a change and go back to school. Finding a career that’s not so hard on the body was the reason I came to college.”

Ryan arrived in Wenatchee in late spring with just a suitcase. He remained homeless, sleeping in parks and down by the river until finding the services of several community organizations.

“Things were going pretty rough at first, but between connecting to Laura, the Gospel House, ‘The Bunker’ (Vets Serving Vets), SkillSource and all the community organizations, it really turned around.”

In spite of his rough start, Ryan is making straight A’s in his second quarter at WVC, where he is pursuing a natural resource transfer degree. “It’s going pretty good, especially since I’ve never used computers before. I never expected to see myself in college. It even surprised me.”

One of Ryan’s favorite places on campus is the new Student Veteran Lounge and computer lab in Brown Library. “It gives vets a good place to go to connect to other vets. I don’t feel alone anymore. I don’t have family here in Wenatchee, but now I feel like I do. It says a lot about the community. WVC and the people in the community really support vets.”

For more information on veterans’ services available at WVC, including 50 percent tuition waivers for eligible veteran students, contact Laura Murphy at lmurphy@wvc.edu or (509) 682-6817. The WVC Veteran Office is located in Wenatchi Hall. For more information, select “Veterans” in the quick jump menu at www.wvc.edu.

Jim Richardson is the president of Wenatchee Valley College. He can be reached at jrichardson@wvc.edu

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