The American Legion Post 283 in Pacific Palisades has made a $41,000 donation to Santa Monica College for crucial counseling and other needs for the college’s student veterans in the winter and spring sessions.
It is the second year in a row that the organization has helped fund veteran services and emergency loans after donating gifts totaling more than $40,000 in 2012.
The SMC Board of Trustees will recognize the American Legion post’s donation tonight, Feb. 5.
Linda Sinclair, faculty leader of the SMC Veterans Resource Center, said the College was grateful to the American Legion for its incredible support of a special population at SMC for whom counseling is critical at many levels.
She said because of the center’s limited budget, it does not have nearly enough funding for counseling for the 700 student veterans at SMC.
“It sometimes takes over three hours for a student veteran to wait to see a counselor,” Sinclair said.
Sinclair said counseling is particularly critical for veterans because, aside from academic advising, they receive guidance on often-needed disabled students services and the complex rules and regulations that govern veterans’ benefits. In addition, she said, the approximately 300 SMC veterans who receive educational benefits under the G.I. Bill monthly allowances cannot receive those benefits if they are not enrolled in classes.
Dave Borgeson, first vice commander of American Legion Post 283, said its members don’t want the returning vets from Iraq and Afghanistan to be treated the way Vietnam vets were.
“These young men and women have come back from wars and have seen some terrible things,” Borgeson said. “Their experiences are much different than the high school students entering college, and they need guidance from specially trained counselors. We want to be sure these veterans get the services they need.”
Borgeson’s post has 630 members that include veterans from World War II, as well as the Korean, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Although most of the donation is going to counseling, $5,000 is being allocated to a veterans’ emergency fund and $1,000 for supplies and printing, Sinclair said.
“Linda Sinclair is a treasure,” Borgeson said, “and the student veterans program at SMC is probably one of the top in the country.”