Harper College

Harvey MorrisPodcast, VSO Partners

Transcript of Road Home Program: The Podcast, Episode 14

Whether it’s education, whether it’s health care, just making sure that they are aware of all those benefits that are out there for them.”

Harper College’s Veterans Center Coordinator, Jesus Molina, shares how his team helps veterans and military-connected students understand the available benefits they’ve earned and how to use them. 

Will Beiersdorf, Executive Director at The Road Home Program at Rush: All right, good day to everybody joining us. This is the Road Home, the Road Home Program, the podcast, you know, again, and I’m Will Beiersdorf. I’m the Executive Director of the Road Home Program. And today’s podcast, we’re talking with a great partner and friend of ours, Jesus Molina from Harper College, who is the Veteran Coordinator for their, for their veteran and military-connected students, as well as the spouses and dependents and others that are under that umbrella. And so I just want to thank you again for joining us today, Jesus. Appreciate your time.

Jesus Molina, Veterans Center Coordinator at Harper College: Thank you for having us. It’s definitely a great opportunity to, kind of, share the resources that we can provide for our students, as well as just creating those opportunities for networking and connection.

Will Beiersdorf: Great. Yeah. Well, we’re honored to have you and to learn more about what you and your team are doing for, you know, the veterans, military-connected students, spouses and dependents at Harper College. So, we’re really grateful. But before I kick things off here, I just want to take a minute for those that are just joining us for the first time, you know, again, this is the Road Home Program, the podcast and I’m Will Beiersdorf, Executive Director of the program. And I just want to just kind of throw out just a little bit about the Road Home Program. So, we take care of veterans, current serving and drilling active duty service members and their families who may be battling the invisible wounds of war and life and those being PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, military sexual trauma, you’ll hear it referred to as MST, traumatic brain injury, TBI, and other challenges that a service member or veteran or a family member may be facing. The RH, the Road Home Program, excuse me, has been caring for veterans and military members and family communities for over eight years. And, I believe to date, we’ve helped well over 2,800 veterans and family members who are battling or struggling with the invisible wounds of war in life. You know, the Road Home Program has outpatient services, as well as a two-week Intensive Outpatient Program called the IOP. And if you want to learn more about what we do here at the Road Home Program, you can go to roadhomeprogram.org. Or you can call us at 312 942 8387. 312 942 VETS. So, let’s get on to talking with our guest, Jesus Molina from Harper College. So, Jesus, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at Harper College for veterans and others students that are in the military.

Jesus Molina: So, myself, I’m a Marine Corps veteran. I served from 1999 through 2003. I did one tour in Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was part of, like, the first kind of wave that went into Iraq. And then currently now, I’m at Harper College, I’m the Coordinator for the, for the Veterans Center. So, what my role is, is to kind of help that transition process for student veterans and military-connected students. That includes spouses, children of veterans, our active duty students, to include also like our reserve and National Guard students. And so my role along with, like, some of our staff here at the center, is to help that transition process be a little bit smoother. Whether it’s educating them about their education benefits, connecting them to external organizations like the Road Home Program, or, you know, the local, you know, other veteran service organizations like the Legion, or the VFW, and then making sure that they’re utilizing their benefits to the utmost potential. Often, we have students that, you know, want to do this process alone, and don’t reach out for support. And so our role is to really push them to really use the benefits that they’ve earned. They’re not taking anything away from anybody. It’s their benefits that are there for them. Whether it’s education, whether it’s health care, just making sure that they are aware of all those benefits that are out there for them, and definitely the organizations that we partner with and making sure that they are connected with them, as well.

Will Beiersdorf: And we appreciate everything. I know, we do, you know, we collaborate on a lot of different initiatives. Again, how can, so if a student comes to Harper College, you know, I, you know, someone who is either currently in the reserve or active duty or, you know, National Guard, or veteran or dependent or spouse, how do they find out more about the programs and things going on at Harper College for them?

Jesus Molina: Yeah. So, in their application process, I’ll ask them if they’re a veteran, or if they’re military-affiliated, whether they’re a spouse, children of veterans, or if they’re currently serving. And so once they fill out that application and indicate and self-identify that they’re under that specific category, I’ll get a notice from our Admissions Office as far as like a roster of who’s been applying to Harper. And from that point on, we try to make contact with those students and let them know, one, that our center is here for them to either answer any questions that they might have regarding the process, because that’s the bad part, right? Where we go through, like, the transition process when you’re in the military, and they try to, you know, give you all the information and resources that are available for you. But it’s so much at one time, and it’s, you know, very different from state to state. And so our role is to really help kind of navigate all that information and give them the tools and the knowledge to really, you know, utilize those benefits. Because each state offers different benefits and each school offers different programs, and they do things differently. So even if they’ve gone to another school, the process to apply and to use their benefits varies a little bit. And so our role is to really just help them navigate that and really make it easier for them. So that way, all they really have to focus on is their academics and making that college experience really meaningful.

Will Beiersdorf: No, and I know you do a good job, I’ve heard some great things. Actually, I, I’ve taken classes at Harper in the past. I didn’t take advantage of the services, you know, for from, you know, from your area. But again, people are really focused on making sure the students, you know, really have a good experience at Harper. I love it. Can you take a few minutes and tell us a little bit about your team? I know you don’t do things alone there. So, tell us a little bit or tell the audience a little bit about the team, you know, and you know, who you know, who do you have their kind of working to make that experience a positive one for veteran and military students?

Jesus Molina: Yeah, so within the center, we fall under Student Engagement. And so within Student Engagement, our goal and mission is to really make that college experience meaningful outside the classroom. So, in resources and events for students, but within the center, we have student workers and we utilize the VA work-study program. And so, what that program is, from the VA, is that they’re either veterans that are attending Harper that are using their education benefits. And so having those students in the center allows that peer-to-peer kind of connection. It allows them to, kind of, as far as like incoming students, allows them to kind of meet faces that they would, individuals that they can kind of connect to whether it’s connect through service, oftentimes, they might be in the same branch. Sometimes it’s, it’s happened a few times where individuals that are working in a center have served in the same ship. And so that instant connection, right? That instant veteran connection is just instantaneous, where they feel a little bit more comfortable in talking about issues that they might be experiencing. And so you, having those student workers who are veterans is just is key to, kind of, developing that sense of camaraderie and that sense of connection for our students. So, right now we have a total of three student workers. We have one that’s a Marine Corps veteran, another that’s an Air Force veteran, and we actually also have a spouse. So, it’s not necessarily all veterans, but also that, those other individuals who sometimes get, I wouldn’t say they get forgotten, but sometimes we don’t really pay attention to, because we focus so much on the veteran side, that sometimes we forget about the spouse, the spouses and the children, that sometimes, I know with the Road Home Program, I know they offer mental health services for families that other organizations don’t provide. And so that’s something that I always kind of stress to our children of veterans and spouses, and let them know like, there’s these other programs that you can access, that can give you some assistance, whether it’s mental health-related or anything like that. Because even though the veteran might be experiencing with PTSD, sometimes we forget that that can also impact the spouse as well as their children.

Will Beiersdorf: And you know what? It does. You know, there is some relation or some, you know, some issues that arise there. So, yeah, and you’re exactly right. And we do a lot of work with family members. Sometimes we do more, you know, initial work with them even before the veteran comes here. So, so again, I just wanted to stop for a second, you know, just let people know if you’re just joining us, this is the Road Home, the podcast, and I’m Will Beiersdorf, the Executive Director of the Road Home Program, and we’re here today with Jesus Molina, who is Veteran Coordinator at Harper College, and Jesus is letting us know about the work and the things that they do at Harper College. And again, you know, the one thing I want to ask you, too, is, you know, we collaborate on a lot of initiatives and things of that nature. And again, you know, we’re helping because I just feel it’s really critical that to work together because you’ll, as you mentioned earlier, you come across a veteran or, or, or a spouse or other family member that’s struggling with PTSD or trying to help relate to PTSD or some other things. So, the collaboration with us is really critical. And it’s great that we can help you. Um, can you talk a little bit about that? Because I know in the past, we’ve probably shared, you know, yeah, if you, whatever you can kind of share with folks about that. But just the importance that, hey, not just the academic health, but also your mental health is really important, right? 

Jesus Molina: Yeah, definitely. That’s something that we definitely like you can learn through, even before the pandemic, that that mental health aspect is, is key to making sure that the individual as a whole is, is doing well. And then just some of the, we would always have like, the community engagement folks from the Road Home Program come out to our space and do either presentations, not only to our student veterans, but also to our staff. There’s so many different touchpoints that students can kind of go to, whether it’s their advisors, their academic advisors, their counselors. So, it’s important that everyone at Harper or any other institution really knows about the different resources that are available to them. So, we always try to invite the Road Home Program to kind of come out and just give us an overview of the different services and programs that are out there. Because, you know, people might know about the VA system and the VA health care. And that’s great. But it’s never too much to like, give out more information and more resources. Even outside of the mental health aspect, even participating in some of the off-campus events that the Road Home Program kind of partners with other external organizations, I believe it was two or three weeks ago, the Road Home Program partnered up with the, I believe is the BraveHearts Association? So, we went out there to kind of just invited some of our students to kind of go out there and just not only connect with the Road Home Program, but also other organizations that are available to veterans and their families. Because it’s, it’s always kind of like important to, to kind of network with all these different organizations and not be so siloed or not provide resources because other organizations are doing it, as well. The partnerships and the networking is key. And so we were we went out there, it was great, because I never really heard of that program before. And it’s not too far from Harper. It’s maybe like about an hour drive. But it was great to kind of learn about other organizations that are out there. And it was great to kind of see folks on the Road Home Program that, you know, obviously with a pandemic we weren’t able to see. So, it was great to kind of see some of those folks and connect with them and their families, and then other veterans as well, because that sense of camaraderie is just, regardless of how long you’ve been out, that sense of connection, just kind of just it’s instant, instantaneous whenever you connect with folks

Will Beiersdorf: Agreed, agreed and again, he’s used to talking about again, we had an event at BraveHearts. It’s, you know, equine therapy and other things that they do out in, I want to say Harvard, is that where it is?

Jesus Molina: The Harvard of the Midwest. (laughs)

Will Beiersdorf: Yes, exactly. So it’s, it’s out there. And again, that’s the thing, I think the power of Road Home Program is that, you know, look, we don’t make the assumption. And for folks just listening in again, I’m Will Beiersdorf with, with the Road Home Program, and I’m here with Jesus Molina from, you know, from Harper College. He’s their Veteran Coordinator. We’re talking about services and, you know, work we do, but, you know, again, you know, at the Road Home Program, you know, it just we don’t make the assumption that everybody needs some type of mental behavioral health, right? It’s probably good to give a checkup and, you know, kind of, you know, you know, it’s like physical health, right. But, but we get involved to help, you know, let families know that we’re here and work with organizations like Harper College. And, you know, I’m just amazed, I believe you’re doing some great work at Harper College and we’re really grateful. I’m glad you participate in our programs. You know, I went to your website, too. And you know, I was, you guys have a good website, you know, and I just want to, you know, again, just bring up something because I was like, looking at something called “The 10 questions with Jesus Molina”. I was like, “What? The 10 Questions? What’s this? This might have been something.” But you know, I love it. And for folks that want to learn more, they go. But, you know, the one thing I want to bring up was some of the songs that you like. I was like, “What’s going on here?” I mean, some of these great songs here. “Sunflower” by Post Malone? I’m like, “That’s one of my favorites!” And I know our producer that works with us, Chris Miller, he loves “Sunflower.” Yeah. I’m messing with you, man. But I just, but you know what, I love this, the kind of stuff that websites have about people because then people can learn about you and I encourage people to learn about because you’re dedicated to the cause, and you’re helping folks, and you kind of lay that out with, you know, what’s your perfect day, you know, who is your role model. I mean, these are all great things. And we’re messing around a little bit joking about the songs and stuff. You know, I’m a little bit older. So, unfortunately, not all these songs are in my playlist here. I’m more of a hard rock, old rock kind of star but you know, it tells me a lot about the organization that the highlight, you know, again, a little bit about who you are, what you do what you like. And again, the fact that you served, you know, we’re really grateful for that. So, is there anything else? Again, you know, there’s a lot going on, you know, at Harper College, but and we’re talking about the services you provide for veterans and military members and their families. But is there anything else people should know about your programming? Again, the other thing is, how do they learn more? Where do they go to learn more about that? If they’re not even a student? I mean, what’s the website? What’s is there a number one, what’s, what’s the contact information there?

Jesus Molina: Yeah, if they go to our website, they could just type in HarperCollege.edu/veterans. They could call our center right now with our students working and we’re back on campus, as well. We’re open Monday through Friday, from 8 to 430. And they could call the center, too, at (847) 925 – 6555. And so we’ll be there. And so that something that was key as well, that was missing throughout the pandemic is just having that center open to provide that connection. We actually had two National Guard members come in yesterday because they were having issues with their GI Bill. And so we, I was able to kind of walk them through some next steps that they needed to take. Because sometimes, like I mentioned before, like, there’s a lot of information out there, but sometimes, you know, there’s a little hiccup and that kind of throws everything off. And so they’re kind of like in that situation where something’s going on with a GI Bill. They weren’t able to get it approved, for one reason or another. And so I was able to kind of let them know, like, there’s these other steps that you need to take in order to get that processed. And so having the center open is definitely key to providing that connection for students. Because even, you know, especially the guard units and reserve units. You know, they only meet, you know, every once in a while. So, the last thing on their minds is, you know, providing training on education benefits when they gotta either do, like, you know, you know, maintenance on their vehicles, or PT, you know, last thing there they’re gonna talk about is like, you know, “How do you apply?” You know, most often, they’re like, “You know, just contact the coordinator at the college, they have someone there.” And so that’s the great thing about Illinois is that it’s mandatory for each college, or each public university in college to have a veteran center or a veteran’s coordinator that can kind of help them in those kind of situations. But yeah, we also have a Student Veterans Association. And so that’s like a club that’s primarily made up of student veterans and military-connected students. It’s run by them and they do different events throughout the year, whether it’s social service, again, just to build that sense of camaraderie, and build that sense of connection sense of community at Harper College. So right now, we’re re-establishing that, with the pandemic, everything kind of went away. So now we’re just kind of rebuilding that having our general meetings and having different events throughout the semester. So that way, we can kind of build that club up again. And the SVA nationals is great about providing resources for local chapters. But the Student Veterans Association is key for building that sense of community. Not only here at Harper, but also working with like, the within the community to either do volunteer projects, service projects. And so that’s definitely something that we strive to kind of make sure that we have a good presence on campus. Because we also want to try to build that or shorten that divide between civilians and our veterans and military-connected students. Because there’s a lot of things that are unknown about the veteran community. I think there’s a lot of assumptions, especially when it comes to like health care, all the different resources that are out there. But sometimes, you know, accessing that healthcare can be difficult and so it’s really key to kind of showcase like, you know, veterans and civilians can be together and can be in can work together on a lot of different projects and fronts.

Will Beiersdorf: It’s a good you know, I’m glad you made that point. Because again, that transition, right? Getting folks back on track to getting back in the civilian community. And again, I really believe and I see it firsthand that you’re doing a lot of that great work at Harper College. And so, again, we’re with Jesus Molina from Harper College. So, we’re going to wrap up here, but I want to thank you again, you know, for all the work and the things you do there. And again, if you want to learn more about Harper College, you know, for those that are listening to the podcast, this is the Road Home Program, the podcast and I’m Will Beiersdorf, Executive Director of the Road Home Program, but if you want to learn more, again, what’s the website again, for those that are here in the northern part or northwestern part of Illinois for Harper?

Jesus Molina: It’s HarperCollege.edu/veterans.

Will Beiersdorf: Fantastic. And you can learn more and you contact Jesus and learn more there. So again, Jesus, I just want to thank you again for your time today. And again, if you want to learn more about the Road Home Program, you know, and the services we provide you go to roadhomeprogram.org And all one word roadhomeprogram.org or you can call us at 312-942-8387 or again, I like, say 312 942 VETS. So again, I’m Will Beiersdorf. This is the Road Home Program, the podcast. Again, Jesus, thank you. Appreciate your time. Appreciate your service and you have a great day and you know, a great rest of the week.

Jesus Molina: Thank you. You do, as well. Thank you for all the work that you do at Road Home, and it’s definitely a great organization that we love to send our students and partner with in the future.

Will Beiersdorf: Fantastic. Thank you. Take care.

Jesus Molina: You, too.


About Road Home Program: The Podcast

Veterans have served our country, now it’s our turn to serve them. Road Home’s Will Beiersdorf talks with veterans and their families about their journeys transitioning to civilian life. During every episode you’ll hear from subject matter experts, like Rush clinicians, staff and community partners, discussing resources and services available to veterans to help them heal from the invisible wounds of war. Subscribe, download, or listen to other Road Home Program podcast episodes.

The Road Home Program provides mental health care and wellness to veterans of all eras, service members, and their families at no cost and regardless of discharge status. If you or a loved one needs help, call us at (312) 942-8387 (VETS) or fill out the Get Care form.