It’s been a long time coming, and a lot of dedicated people have worked their magic to bring it from reverie to reality, but the Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC) now has a dedicated Veterans’ Lounge in the Alfond Recreation Center on its Hinckley campus.

Furnished with a cushy couch and chair, television, computer, printer, coffee station, Maine flag, framed legislative sentiment and student mementos, this dedicated room can be a “Vet-Cave” for homework or relaxing. A world map pinpoints areas in which some of the student vets have served.

Student Navigator Brian Holtz expressed hope that “the students involved in this initiative currently, as well as alumni, will … take ownership of the space and use their vision to develop it moving forward.”

Holtz  named former Director of Financial Aid Ann Connors and current staff member Flora Stack as two of the early administrative supporters of veterans’ initiatives.

As part of his coursework, recent KVCC graduate Mike Malone wrote a successful institutional grant proposal to fund a veterans’ space on campus and, working with KVCC Foundation liaison Michelle Webb and KVCC Vice President Karen Normandin, moved the initiative forward.

A portion of the grant funds purchased red, white and blue honor cords for graduating 2017 veterans who chose to wear them at commencement.

“Welcome Veterans” signs are appearing throughout the Fairfield and Hinckley campuses as further effort toward building a culture of support, Holtz said. A Nov. 1 flag raising initiated a new flagpole on the Hinckley campus as another patriotic connection to the veterans there.

A design for a challenge coin — a coin or medallion usually personally presented in special recognition of an accomplishment — is now in the works. Students plan to have the KVCC precision machining program make the coins, Holtz said. The coins will then be offered “to faculty and staff to present to students when they feel it is fitting,” he said.

Funding for recent KVCC graduate Alexander “Zander” Walz’s AmeriCorps VISTA position — which focuses on veterans’ issues such as food security and poverty — came from a renewable AmeriCorps grant effort spearheaded by Lisa Black, director of the federal TRIO program.

This educational opportunity outreach program supports a cohort of 180 qualified students who receive additional, focused support from a team of four staff members.

“The students in TRIO end up being some of our most involved students. They are often our most successful,” Holtz said. “ Statistically they graduate at a higher rate.”  Malone and Walz were both TRIO students.

The Veterans’ Lounge is located in the Alfond Recreation Center on the Kennebec Valley Community College’s Hinckley Campus, 23 Stanley Road, Hinckley, Maine 04944. Lounge hours are the same as those for the Alfond Recreation Center: currently 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday. For more information,  email Brian Holtz at [email protected] or telephone him at 453-3539 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.