SUNY Broome gathered Tuesday to honor the contributions of veterans, both on campus and in the nation.

The campus also celebrated the opening of its new Veterans Resource Center. Located in the Student Services Building, it provides a place where veterans can go if they need help navigating their educational benefits or other issues, meet with peer advisors or socialize with each other in a safe and supportive space.  The center is equipped with a computer and printer stations, for help in research and homework assignments.

“Statistics show that if we help veterans transition from the military to college life, they are more successful in their academic careers,” said SUNY Broome President Kevin E. Drumm.

Veterans can feel out of place when they return to civilian life, especially if they have spent years away from the classroom, Drumm noted. Having a space to themselves – where they can focus on academics and connect with others who have undergone similar experiences – can make a difference.

Broome County provided 80 percent of the funding for the project, with the college picking up the remainder.

“It’s been one of my priorities to do everything possible for our veterans,” said Broome County Executive Debbie Preston, a SUNY Broome grad whose husband and family members have served in the armed forces. “We want to provide you with every opportunity to succeed after your service in the military.”

SUNY Broome owes its existence to veterans, who were given access to education thanks to the G.I. Bill. After the end of World War II, New York State developed five Institutes of Applied Arts and Sciences – which later became the core of the new community college system. Binghamton was among those five, the very first community colleges in the state.

The G.I. Bill ultimately transformed the world of higher education, President Drumm noted.

“Before then, mostly wealthy 18-year-olds went to college,” he said.

Sully Shoemaker is one of approximately 95 students using veterans’ education benefits at SUNY Broome. A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, she served in Okinawa, Japan, from 2008 to 2012.

A native of Fairfax, Virgina, she wasn’t a star student in her youth and graduated high school a year late. In joining the military, she was inspired by her sister, who was in Air Force training when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks took place.

“I joined because I wanted to make something of myself,” she said, noting that she met her husband – also a Marine and a veteran of Afghanistan – in Japan. He now works as a Binghamton firefighter and the two have a young child.

As a petite woman, Shoemaker acknowledges that she might not fit the image most people have of a Marine. When her husband wears his Marine Corps sweatshirt in town, passersby often thank him for his service – not realizing that his wife also served.

But while she might not receive a show of appreciation from strangers, she is grateful for the Veterans Resource Center and the services it provides. On Veterans Day she offered her thanks to all those who made it possible.

“I accept the Veterans office as my token of appreciation,” she said. “These generous individuals are what make the county great.”

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