Designated a Military Friendly School, MHCC is hosting its first veterans career and benefit fair

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Ray said hiring veterans is a smart business decision. The school is hosting its first veterans career and benefit fair Tuesday, Nov. 12.

For the fifth year, Mt. Hood Community College has been named a Military Friendly School.

The designation honors the top 20 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools in the country who do the most for its students who are veterans, military service personnel and their spouses.

“It’s always my goal to make the transition little bit easier for each and every veteran who walks through our office,” said Joshua Ray, veteran services coordinator at MHCC. “To me, it’s about the level of customer service we provide our veterans.”

Ray served in the U.S. Army from 2001-2005 and remembers well the huge transition coming out of the military into the civilian world. It took two years for him to feel transitioned out of service and more than three years for him to finalize his benefits.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - An East County native, Joshua Ray served in the Army from 2001 to 2005 before attending Mt. Hood Community College. Today, he strives to connect veterans with resources as the veteran services coordinator at MHCC.

“I went from being told where to be when and where to ‘What am I going to do today?’” Ray said. “I had to work through the system myself to find my benefits. I felt discouraged and angry at times and didn’t want other people to suffer through the same things.”

Ray went on to receive his business transfer degree at MHCC and his human resources and business management bachelor's degree at Portland State University. Today, he serves as Veteran Services coordinator at MHCC, and he also is commander of Gresham's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 180.

Ray estimates the Gresham campus is home to 400 to 500 veterans and active military personnel each year. He said MHCC’s veteran services office also was created to help veterans relate their military training to the business and professional world.

For the first time, the college is offering a veterans career and benefit fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, in the Vista Dining Center on the Gresham campus, 26000 S.E. Stark St.

Sponsored by MHCC Veteran Services, Worksource, Gresham United Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 180 and a variety of employers, the fair is designed to help veterans understand their educational benefits and how they can apply to a future career.

“Hiring veterans is not just about giving back to those who have served our country; it’s a smart business decision,” Ray said. “Veterans have the skills and attributes that employers are looking for, and a variety of programs are available to job-train veterans to meet the needs of business and industry. It’s definitely a win-win.”

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Josh Grover, an Army veteran and employee with veteran services, speaks with James Gamet, an eight-year Marine veteran, about his class load. Gamet is interested in transferring to Lewis & Clark College.

Two Army veterans, Joshua Grover and Stefanie Donner, have graduated and now work with Ray in the veteran services office. Grover is studying operations and technology management at the University of Portland, and Donner is studying English at Portland State University.

Grover said the Veteran Services office helped him acclimate to the campus as a nontraditional student, while Donner said her job with the office gave her a sense of economic empowerment as a single mother.

“This office has become like a second family,” Donner said. “Go in and start asking questions."

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Stefanie Donner, right, calls veteran services a second family.

MHCC honors veterans

Friday, Nov. 8

• The Gresham Campus bookstore coffee bar will offer free 12-ounce lattes and mochas to all MHCC veterans and active duty personnel from 7:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. The coffee bar will tally how many members of the military come through. Veterans and customers also are invited to write comments in a notebook in honor of Veterans Day.

Monday, Nov. 11

• All MHCC campuses are closed in honor of Veterans Day.

Tuesday, Nov. 12

• The Veterans Career and Benefit Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Vista Dining Center. Veterans will receive information and guidance on how to start, restart or complete college so they can get to the next step in their lives.

The Associated Students Government also is planning a celebratory dinner honoring veterans.

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