Santa Monica College (SMC) has opened a new Veterans Center dedicated to assisting the estimated 300 to 350 student veterans at the college.

This semester, SMC opened the Veterans Center in a small complex of former faculty offices that college officials say will help them better serve this special population, which includes many veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The center is located in Room 135 of the Liberal Arts Building and is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday.

“Veterans trust other veterans,” says Linda Sinclair, coordinator of the Veterans Center. “Some veterans just want a place to decompress or feel comfortable.”

The new facility has a small staff that includes a part-time counselor, part-time secretary and part-time student assistant, who is also a veteran. The center has a free textbook-lending library, a meeting room and a computer-tutoring room.

It also features an office where representatives from other SMC departments or outside agencies — such as Financial Aid, Disabled Students and the Veterans Administration — can come to provide assistance and guidance to the students.

Sinclair says her plans include establishing an emergency loan fund, scholarship fund, a community advisory group and having a brown bag lunch series on veterans’ topics.

The center is intended to help the student veterans deal with various complex issues, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome or other psychological problems, substance abuse, financial difficulties, and adjusting to civilian and campus life.

“We’re lucky to have these veterans home and lucky that SMC is a welcoming place for them,” Sinclair said. “But it’s important that we do all in our power to help these men and women get the education they need so they can write a fulfilling and successful new chapter in their lives.”

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