The Military and Veteran Success Center made its debut this fall at Imperial Valley College, offering help for the 101 veterans enrolled at the college as well as their dependents.

Housed in the former Casbah Room in the student center, it offers a place where students with military backgrounds can get help from a designated veterans' counselor in developing their educational plans, where they can review courses and majors, and get other academic advice, said Ted Ceasar, IVC's dean of counseling.

Staffing includes a counselor and office personnel, along with Student Success Specialist Esther Frias, a U.S. Army National Guard veteran who served in Afghanistan.

"Her role as a student success specialist is to put together a peer tutoring and mentoring program," Ceasar said. "She will be doing outreach in the community, promoting the center and encouraging veterans to enroll at IVC."

Frias is coordinating development of a veterans' club that would be working out of the center. There also will be resources within the student health center, and health and wellness activities for veterans and their families will be offered.

The center houses three computer stations for students to use so they can work on projects, register for classes and print their papers and notes, Ceasar said. A lounge area is available for students to come in and relax or wait in between classes, a place where they can converse with fellow students who also are veterans.

"It has three components," he said, "Those are academics, health and wellness and camaraderie — it's a place for veterans to bond with fellow veterans."

The center is fully accessible for veteran students with disabilities and includes computer software programs designed to help veterans improve their reading skills, organize projects and term papers, and develop math skills.

"It is software designed for nontraditional students that may need help," Ceasar said.

The center's theme is AT EASE, an acronym for Academic Transition and Employment Acquisition for Student Excellence. When the décor has been completed, it will feature a corner with U.S. and military flags as well as photos with a military theme. AT EASE will be spelled out in large letters on the wall, and smaller letters will define the meaning of the acronym.

"The phrase conveys what center is all about, for veterans to be at ease and feel comfortable in their space," Ceasar said.

Funding for the center was made available through the Student Success Act, which is intended to address student equity and achievement gaps, enabling colleges throughout the state to level the playing field for first-time students.

A grand opening is being planned for next spring, although a date has not yet been set.