ATC receives $25,000 grant to benefit veterans

STAFF PHOTO BY LARRY WOOD Aiken Technical College received a $25,000 check from the Fluor Foundation for a grant to support programs for veterans. Celebrating the gift are, from left, ATC student and veteran Gabriel Uvalle; Carol Johnson, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions president and CEO; ATC staff member and veteran Rich Weldon; Tom D’Agostino, senior vice president for Business Development and Strategy, Fluor Government Group; ATC faculty and veteran Lynn Moore; Jonathan McGee, ATC student and president of the school’s Student Veterans Association; Clayton Pennington, ATC student and vice president of the Student Veterans Association; ATC President Dr. Susan A. Winsor; Greg Meyer, senior vice president for Operations, Environmental and Nuclear, Fluor Government Group; ATC student and veteran Ferderica Banks; and ATC faculty member and veteran Quincita Register-Dennis.

Aiken Technical College received a $25,000 Fluor Military Support Coalition Grant from the Fluor Foundation to create a Veteran Scholarship and Support Program.

Representatives from ATC and Fluor announced the new program at a news conference Tuesday. The program will begin in the spring 2016 semester.

“Fluor and the Fluor Foundation believe strongly in supporting organizations that assist U.S. military personnel and their families,” said Tom D’Agostino, senior vice president for Business Development and Strategy, Fluor Government Group. “Providing education assistance to our nation’s veterans, active duty military and National Guard personnel is one way we can thank and recognize these men and women for their sacrifices on behalf of our country.”

A portion of the funds will be used to award Veteran Success Grants to eligible veteran and military students to assist with cost of living expenses not covered by federal education benefits.

“Veteran benefits are a godsend for helping veterans access higher education, but we know there’s more to obtaining that higher education credential than tuition and fees; and that’s just the simple cost of living – getting to classes, being able to manage the expenses that are often burdensome while you are trying to finish a degree,” ATC President Dr. Susan A. Winsor said. “Having this additional help and additional support system within the College to make sure they can finish and transition into a good-paying career is essential to the health of our community.”

The grant is important for both the student veterans at ATC and for the employers who will hire them, Winsor said.

“The grant will help augment the students’ veteran educational benefits to help them persevere to graduation in a shorter amount of time,” Winsor said. “What we want our students to do is be ready to go to work and to do that as quickly as possible.”

Winsor said ATC is one of only a few recipients of the Fluor Foundation grants.

“We’re honored to receive it,” she said. “I think that speaks a great deal to the relationship with our employers in the area and the trust that we have.”

Fluor is one of the parent companies of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, which is responsible for the management and operations of the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site, including the Savannah River National Laboratory.

Grant funds also will be used to help establish Veteran’s Ambassadors to provide peer mentoring; conduct career information sessions for veteran and military students with prospective employers, including Savannah River Nuclear Solutions; and make upgrades to the Veterans’ Lounge located in the ATC Student Activities Center.

Going to school is a challenge for veterans, but that challenge is compounded by their having to support themselves and their families while attending classes, said ATC student Clayton Pennington, who is vice president of the school’s Student Veterans Association.

“The grant is going to help struggling veterans as they get out of service,” Pennington said. “They want to come to school, but they don’t have the finances to support themselves and go to school.”

A native of Aiken, Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.