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CMVE ready to assist military-related students with everything

Military-related students, we’ve got you covered.

Pose any question about almost anything, and Tidewater Community College’s Center for Military and Veterans Education will provide an answer.

“The buck stops here,” said Shelly Bearden, a VERITAS veterans resource liaison. “I’m not going to send anyone to another office. If something’s not working, if you’re frustrated with a process, if you have any kind of problem, I will make sure it gets solved.”

Bearden refers to herself as an advocate for all of the college’s military-related students. Echoing that are her colleagues Cassandra Harris, lead military academic advisor, and Alesia Wroten, also a VERITAS veterans resource liaison.

With the Navy a part of all of their backgrounds, the administrators don’t just understand the language of the military — they’re fluent in it. They understand acronyms, including myCAA, VMSEP and TA and can explain if you qualify.

They can answer any questions about GI Bill benefits. The email was set up specifically to respond to questions related to military-related students looking to use their GI Bill.

Wroten handles workforce programs geared toward military-related students seeking a short-term program that leads to immediate employment. A sampling:  

Wroten works with student vets to ensure they know all their options before selecting a program. “I make sure they know about all the workforce programs they can take advantage of,” she said.

Harris had been on base prior to COVID-19; now she is based at the Virginia Beach Campus with the others. She works primarily with active duty service members, but also assists veterans, spouses and dependents. She provides a range of services, including the evaluation of credit from military experience and prior college/universities attended to ensuring that qualified military-related students receive a domicile exception to pay instate tuition.

Harris also helps military who might not be able to finish the semester due to deployment or temporary assignment. “We can get them pulled out of class and get their tuition fully refunded,” she said.

She’s happy to help military-related students navigate the transfer process and will even advise a student vet on how many hours he or she can handle based on other obligations.

Bearden can assist former military looking to transfer to an Ivy League college as TCC is part of the Warrior-Scholar Project.

The CMVE is also able to direct veterans to a plethora of resources — from assistance to pay for books to filing a disability or unemployment claim.

“We take a holistic approach,” Harris said. “The CMVE is a one-stop shop.”

You don’t have to remember who does what if you’re a military-related student in need of assistance. Email for any questions. Virtual service is available daily or via phone; see this link for information.

Navy veteran paying it forward

Coby Dillard stumbled into college one sunny afternoon while walking down Granby Street in Norfolk. The Navy veteran had just completed work with Gov. McDonnell’s campaign and was looking for a job to support his family.

He realized he was on Tidewater Community College’s Norfolk Campus.

“I stepped into the veterans services office and when I left, I had a full course load and a part-time job as a work-study student,” Dillard said.

Eight years later, Dillard is the coordinator of veterans and military services at University of California at Santa Barbara and working on his doctorate in higher education leadership and management through Regent University.

“This is my first time leading a program, and I’m excited to build relationships with veterans and military-related students,” Dillard said. “It’s my greatest joy to connect students with resources and help them find their own paths to success.”

Dillard earned his Associate of Science in Social Sciences from Tidewater Community College in 2012. He went on to earn his bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies at Norfolk State University and a master’s in human service counseling from Regent University.

While at TCC, Dillard held many positions from financial aid assistant to academic advisor in the college’s Center for Military and Veterans Education. He also worked briefly with military students at Regent University.

As a TCC student, Dillard was president of the Student Government Association on the Norfolk Campus from 2011-12.

Dillard credits several faculty and staff members with investing in his future, including Linda Jacobs, a veterans benefits advisor he met that first day on campus.

Now Dillard is paying it forward.

“Everyone is going to leave the military at some point. I’ve seen so many people come to me with three days left in the service and no idea of the next steps,” he said. “I help veterans, military spouses and active duty military navigate their benefits and plan for the future.

“I feel like this is a calling. I’ve changed from someone who hated school to a lifelong learner, and I know it’s going to impact my family.”

Dillard and wife Trieasha have a son, DJ, who is 11 and a daughter, Allie, 9.

For students coming after him, Dillard promises, “If I can do it, so can you. Find what you love and then do the work to get there.”