Malik Bellamy, junior engineering major and veteran, leaned against the counter, headphones stretched over one ear, waiting as his food heated in the microwave. Inside the retrofitted kitchen of the Veterans Resource Center in the Office of Student Success, Bellamy named a list of benefits the office gives to student veterans like himself.
Besides the academic resources for jobs and applications, the office gives students the space to relax, study, socialize and network through connections with the city and veterans’ groups. Bellamy recounts the transition between his time as a jet mechanic in the Navy to his study at CBU.
“They’re really on top of their game,” Bellamy said. “They did all of my paperwork and I’ve never had any problem with my benefits since I’ve been here.”
Even with around 400 veterans on campus, he said there are always opportunities available to him through the office and even a few free tickets to attend “The Price Is Right.”
Stephanee Fontanilla, junior communication sciences and disorders major who works in the Veterans Affairs office, said her experience working with student and faculty veterans has given her an increased appreciation for their service.
“My father is a veteran, so experiencing this kind of welcoming environment is good to be a part of,” Fontanilla said.
She noted that while the office is fairly new, students do consistently use its services and the staff is kept up-to-date with on-campus services and veteran events throughout the city.
The Riverside Municipal Auditorium hosted a veterans-only job fair Jan. 13 with representatives from a range of private and public sector employers, some of which were even hiring applicants on the spot.
Riverside is home to more than 13,000 veterans, and after a 2016 White House challenge to end veteran homelessness in communities across the country, Riverside was the first to reach functional zero in California.
That success is due in large part to continued initiatives by the city to support its veteran population, either through job fairs, outreach or special programs.
Edward Coronado, assistant to Mayor Rusty Bailey, said he believes it is important to be proactive rather than reactive. Bailey, an Army veteran, has made efforts to make his hometown a place where veterans feel accepted and supported. One of these current initiatives is developing community partners for Bikes4Vets, a city program that creates custom bicycles for wounded and disabled veterans, free of charge.
Coronado noted that while Bailey does not have a vote on policy brought to council, “(He) is very passionate about various policies the city has for veterans. He leads through targeted campaigns, partnerships and initiatives,” Coronado said.
Bellamy said, in his own time serving around the globe, that the experience in the military gives a unique insight into leadership, one that gives elected officials a better understanding of how to serve the people they represent.
“It’s like a commander to a squadron,” Bellamy said. “You are serving the group instead of the individual.”
That mentality is essential to giving the best access and opportunities to those who have served our country.