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The Military and Veteran Success Center made its debut this fall at Imperial Valley College, offering help for the 101 veterans enrolled at the college as well as their dependents.

Housed in the former Casbah Room in the student center, it offers a place where students with military backgrounds can get help from a designated veterans' counselor in developing their educational plans, where they can review courses and majors, and get other academic advice, said Ted Ceasar, IVC's dean of counseling.

Staffing includes a counselor and office personnel, along with Student Success Specialist Esther Frias, a U.S. Army National Guard veteran who served in Afghanistan.

"Her role as a student success specialist is to put together a peer tutoring and mentoring program," Ceasar said. "She will be doing outreach in the community, promoting the center and encouraging veterans to enroll at IVC."

Frias is coordinating development of a veterans' club that would be working out of the center. There also will be resources within the student health center, and health and wellness activities for veterans and their families will be offered.

The center houses three computer stations for students to use so they can work on projects, register for classes and print their papers and notes, Ceasar said. A lounge area is available for students to come in and relax or wait in between classes, a place where they can converse with fellow students who also are veterans.

"It has three components," he said, "Those are academics, health and wellness and camaraderie — it's a place for veterans to bond with fellow veterans."

The center is fully accessible for veteran students with disabilities and includes computer software programs designed to help veterans improve their reading skills, organize projects and term papers, and develop math skills.

"It is software designed for nontraditional students that may need help," Ceasar said.

The center's theme is AT EASE, an acronym for Academic Transition and Employment Acquisition for Student Excellence. When the décor has been completed, it will feature a corner with U.S. and military flags as well as photos with a military theme. AT EASE will be spelled out in large letters on the wall, and smaller letters will define the meaning of the acronym.

"The phrase conveys what center is all about, for veterans to be at ease and feel comfortable in their space," Ceasar said.

Funding for the center was made available through the Student Success Act, which is intended to address student equity and achievement gaps, enabling colleges throughout the state to level the playing field for first-time students.

A grand opening is being planned for next spring, although a date has not yet been set.

From teenagers fresh out of high school who, despite a range of learning disabilities, are determined to get their college education, to students who have difficulty seeing or hearing, to the man in his 90s who wanted to learn English to communicate with his grandson, Imperial Valley College's Disabled Students Programs and Services serves them all.

Located in the Mel Wendrick Access Center Building (2100), this program reaches out to all students at the college who need help with supportive services. These include helping those whose impairments include mobility, visual, hearing, speech and orthopedics, as well as those who are learning disabled, psychologically disabled, or who have an acquired brain injury. It is the department's goal to offer the same opportunities of success to disabled students as are offered to those without disabilities.

"The program provides services and accommodations to students who have a disability — classes, sports, class-sponsored activities the student wants to get involved in," said DSP&S Director Norma Nava.

Among services provided are help with reading, where issues such as dyslexia interrupt the brain's ability to process the written word, or even math in a learning disorder known as dyscalculia. Those who are deaf or hard of hearing have access to interpreters trained in American Sign Language, and blind students benefit from software that translates text into Braille, which is then printed with a Braille embosser.

And, in collaboration with Imperial County Behavioral Health Services, two counselors are available to work with those with mental health issues, including military veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The counselors help those with mental health issues connect with us and return to school with a goal of getting an education," said Nava, who said the need for such services is increasing rapidly.

Some students avoid seeking DSP&S assistance, though, because of the stigma they feel is associated with needing it, Nava said.

"How do you reach those who are reluctant to come?" Nava asked. "We tell them they're in a regular class, like anyone else. They can utilize our services, without disclosure."

The college takes pride in that its DSP&S program was the first in California, thanks to the man for whom the center is named, Mel Wendrick.

"Every California Community College has a DSP&S program because of Mel Wendrick and Gov. (Jerry) Brown," said Lovitt.

Wendrick, who died in 2010 at the age of 80, fought on behalf of disabled students to ensure their rights to higher education, including founding the DSP&S at the college, the first of its kind in the state.

To participate in many of the services, students must have a verified disability, from a specialist or school psychologist, Nava said. The verification must identify the student's specific disability as well as the educational limits that result from this disability.

Much of the help available is high-tech, and the department has a specialist, Paige Lovitt, to oversee those services.

The High Tech Center computer lab in DSP&S is available to every student, Lovitt said. "It's for students who need specialized software, any student — including learning disabled, English as a Second Language students, blind students." The software is sophisticated and state-of-the-art. Some programs convert text in a book or homework to electronic text so students who need to can better hear or see and understand it onscreen.

A Transition Fair in early spring helps the department share its programs to all high school juniors and seniors in Special Education or needing assistance. It features a presentation and tour of the campus, as well as 35-40 booths offering information about community resources such as Center for Employment Training and Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program, Nava said. "There are many booths and agencies that provide services to help students determine what's next after high school, what services and programs are available to help them pursue their goals."

Lovitt said the Transition Fair "is a good place to learn what services are available. We target high school students, but the community is welcome."

"More students are graduating and transitioning to higher education than before," Nava said, "and it's because they're seeing it as a possibility."

"For me, I love working in this department because I see some of the challenges our students have," Nava said. "To see them reach their goal, to see them walk across the stage or get their certificate, that's exciting."


Currently there are five American Sign Language interpreters to facilitate communication for deaf and hard-of-hearing students at Imperial Valley College, said Liisa Mendoza, a full-time faculty member who teaches American Sign Language. IVC offers courses that involve learning ASL, understanding the deaf culture, fingerspelling and numbers, and interpreting spoken English into ASL for the deaf or hard-of-hearing.

Mendoza trains, evaluates and schedules the interpreters, but the goal is to recruit and train more interpreters to provide communication access in classrooms, clubs and campus activities.

Training is intensive and involves taking five semesters of ASL at IVC as well as continuing on into interpreter training, but the pay is good, said Mendoza. Interpreters' pay at the college can range from $14 to $35 an hour, she said.

Mendoza, who travels daily to Imperial from Palm Desert, said the program is "so much more developed than where I've taught before. We're in the process of trying to establish a certificate in ASL." Hopefully, then students will have assurance of going to higher levels of employment. Interpreting pays a very decent wage. At IVC that ranges from $14 to $35 per hour.

By MARIO RENTERIA, Managing Editor (Reprinted with permission of the Imperial Valley Press) Everything from paintings to drawings and everything in between were on display Thursday night, showcasing talent the Imperial Valley has to offer. "The Valley is full of art," said Imperial Valley College Humanities Chair and Gallery Director Carol Hegarty. "There's so much here." IVC's Juanita Salazar Lowe Art Gallery is currently displaying art submitted by community members and on Thursday the gallery opened the exhibit to the public. "We got a great turnout, better than we had before," Hegarty said. "We had a good turnout from students too." One of those students was Benjamin Barajas, 19, of Calexico who draws on a smaller scale as a hobby. "I really like art," said Barajas who is in the college's nursing program. The exhibit has more than 30 artists who submitted jewelry, mosaics, paintings, drawings, mixed media works and photography. The exhibit will be on through Oct. 28 with the gallery being open from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 a.m. Mondays, 2 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursday and 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesdays. "It is a huge variety of work," Hegarty said. "It's growing in the Valley, we have more and more art events."

By EDWIN DELGADO, Staff Writer (Reprinted with permission of the Imperial Valley Press) Imperial Valley College through the U.S. Department of Education will receive the Teaching and Learning Center for Achievement and Success grant to expand some of the most crucial services to its students. The grant will total $2.2 million, which the college will receive thorough a five-year span, very close to half a million dollars per year to upgrade and enhance the technological capacity of the college. IVC applied for a Title V Hispanic Serving Institution grant, which aims for professional development, online learning and tutoring. "Imperial Valley College has some specific needs based on our geography and demographics," associate professor of mathematics Jill Nelipovich said. "This money will be well-used for our students and will expand opportunities for academic success." The funds will be used to primarily expand the tutoring services at the college, open an academic testing center, a center to expand online instruction a facility in order to hold professional development seminars and computer labs to allow the students to access online instruction and tutoring. "There will be more access for our students to tutoring and the opportunity develop a relationship outside the classroom with the professors and faculty that will give them a greater chance of success," Nelipovich said. The grant also funded installation of a Wi-Fi network across campus along with other technological upgrades. Nelipovich said that most of the tutoring given in the college is focused on English and Math, the grant will help to expand the range of subjects in which tutoring will be available for the students.

The newly formed Imperial Valley Arts in Motion will be hosting the 1st Annual Imperial Valley Arts Festival on Saturday, May 14th, at the corner of 6th and Main in Downtown El Centro from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be musical performances, art displays, interactive art booths, and much more. (View Flyer)

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