The idea behind the remodeled Veterans Resource Center was to give Merced College’s veterans their own place on campus.
Whether they needed someone to talk to or just a quiet space to be alone with their thoughts, the hope was to provide a little of everything.
Vice President of Student Services Michael McCandless believes the school has achieved just that. The First Lieutenant Peter Joseph Gallo Veterans Resource Center completed its remodel in August and is fully servicing over 150 veterans and their dependents across campus.
“We worked with the (Peter) Gallo Memorial Foundation, President (Chris) Vitelli and of course our students to come up with a plan that would best serve our veterans here on campus,” McCandless said. “We wanted a space that veterans could use inside and outside and serve as an anchor to attract them to a place where they’d have the resources to be successful. We have the outside study area where they can get some space, and on the inside they can get peer mentoring, a place to meet and counseling.
“They’re the kind of wrap-around services that provide the peer-to-peer interactions and support network that give our veterans their best chance to be successful when matriculating into school.”
The Peter Gallo Memorial Foundation donated $80,000 to the project, which took just about a year and a half to complete. Working with Darden Architects out of Fresno, the College allocated an initial $50,000 towards the interior offices, which were completed in January. The remaining $30,000 went towards the construction of the patio area and the new sign.
Peter J. Gallo, whom the center is named after, won a number of medals as a combat veteran in Vietnam.
“The Gallos were looking for a way to memorialize (Peter), and this was a good way to also help Merced College students that are fellow veterans,” McCandless said. “The reaction to its completion is just a general excitement. The students are really excited for the space itself, but also for the support the College has shown them.
“They’re pleased that we recognize we can provide some of these services and we’re pleased that the students are accessing them. We think it’s made a big impact on them.”
Veterans services clerk Dustin Thompson echoed those sentiments.
“I think everybody is extremely happy with how it’s turned out,” Thompson said. “The renovations went well. It took a little bit longer than expected, but the end result speaks for itself.
“The hope is that the more we put the resources that we have out there on campus – whether it be the computers, print services, copying or our lending library that we started this past semester – that more people will start to flow into the office.”