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Record Number of Veterans and Dependents Graduate this Spring as Part of Class of 2015

University Transfer graduate Sarah Smith, a veteran who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, receives her associate degree from PCC during commencement on May 13. Smith will continue her studies at East Carolina University in the fall.

WINTERVILLE—Without helmets, weaponry and camouflage, it was impossible to distinguish military veterans from their fellow Pitt Community College graduates during this month’s graduation ceremony.

But PCC administrators were well aware that a record number of veterans and their dependents was among the sea of royal blue caps and gowns filling Minges Coliseum on May 13.

“I was so proud to see them graduate,” said PCC Veterans Affairs Coordinator Sonji Rowsom. “I was also sad, because we have built relationships with many of them. I feel like part of our family has moved away.”

Alison Trenga, who works with Rowsom, said she, too, felt a mixture of happiness, pride and “a tinge of sadness” watching the veterans she has come to know so well walk across the stage at graduation. Mostly, though, she felt thankful.

“Most of all, I felt gratitude – gratitude for their service to our country and gratitude that I have had the privilege to work with such a dedicated group of students,” Trenga said. “The resolve, tenacity and perseverance that they developed during their military service served them well in their academic endeavors.”

Joanne Ceres, PCC Dean of Student Services and Enrollment Management, said Pitt’s Class of 2015 totaled 1,081 students, including 88 veterans and their dependents. That figure, she said, is a testament to the college’s dedication to serving the educational needs of military members and their families.

PCC President G. Dennis Massey agreed and said Pitt works hard to provide veterans with the resources needed for higher education success.

“PCC takes great pride in serving veterans and current members of our armed forces,” Massey said. “These men and women have made numerous sacrifices in order to preserve our nation’s freedom, and they deserve our best effort in helping them receive a quality college education.”

PCC, which has been listed by “G.I. Jobs” magazine and militarycollegeonline.org as one of the country’s best colleges and universities in terms of offering active-duty military personnel and veterans a quality education, value and welcoming attitude, serves more than 400 veterans and dependents annually.

The college features an on-campus Veterans Affairs Office to help vets make a smooth transition from military service to college. In addition to Rowsom and Trenga, staff member Mary Tyson helps ensure veterans and their dependents receive the educational benefits available to them.

The trio also assists with the PCC Student Veteran Association, an organization created at Pitt in 2011 to provide a support network for military veterans, their families and civilian supporters. The group, which is part of a national veterans organization, sponsors the PCC Veterans Salute each November in observance of Veterans Day.

PCC has long been at the forefront of helping veterans train for new careers. In the summer of 2013, for example, the college partnered with East Carolina University, DSM Dyneema and the City of Greenville to sponsor “Tools for Advanced Manufacturing for Veterans.” The program featured several training modules and workshops designed to help vets develop new job and interviewing skills and learn more about area manufacturing companies.