Rio Salado College Joins Coalition to Create New Home for West Valley Military and Veteran Success Center
Ever since Major General George S. Patton Jr. began training World War II troops in Arizona— the state has become home for thousands of active military service members, veterans and their families. Today, Arizona has seven military bases including Maricopa County’s point-of-pride, Luke Air Force Base (AFB), which is surrounded by a West Valley community of veterans who have served through the years.
To continue its long-standing tradition of serving military communities— wherever they may be, Rio Salado College joined a coalition of community leaders to serve Maricopa County’s West Valley military service members, veterans and their families at a new location in Surprise, Arizona.
The West Valley Military and Veteran Success Center (MVSC) is located within the City of Surprise Resource Center AZ TechCelerator Campus located at 12425 W. Bell Road, Suite 124. It will provide a variety of military and veteran support services and resources made possible by the generous support of all West Valley cities, the Arizona Coalition for Military Families (ACMF), Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services, Northern Arizona University (NAU), the Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation, Rio Salado, and generous philanthropic community members.
Support services will be rolled out in phases. Services available now include a part-time Be Connected navigator and a full-time AmeriCorps member provided by ACMF and NAU. Both services aim to provide greater opportunities to access the benefits and services crucial to the well-being of current and former military personnel and their families.
“This collaboration draws in such a wide variety of partners that are all unified under one goal – providing support and assistance to Arizona’s service members, veterans and their families,” said former U.S. Marine and Director of ACMF, Thomas Winkel. “We are so appreciative of the willingness of these partners to expand access to the vast ecosystem of support that exists across Arizona for military and veteran families – including the Be Connected program, our nationally recognized public/private partnership. This new center further expands our collective reach.”
The City of Surprise, a longtime partner to the ACMF, offered this space as a way to demonstrate their continued commitment to the veteran community.
“Honoring and supporting the veteran community has always been a priority for Surprise,” said City of Surprise Mayor Skip Hall. “We are thankful that we have community partners who feel the same way and have come together to help our Surprise Resource Center offer expanded resources and one-on-one guidance to connect our brave heroes to programs and services that will help them thrive well into the future.”
The AmeriCorps staff member, who holds a dedicated office in Surprise Resource Center, is a part of the statewide NAU initiative that works to unite people and help them tackle challenges through connection to resources.
“This partnership offers an exciting opportunity to expand services in the West Valley and will serve as a model for other community partnerships across the state,” says Andrew Facemire, AmeriCorps Program Coordinator, Center for Service and Volunteerism. “We’re excited to be a part of this collaboration.”
In addition to the full-time AmeriCorps staff member, the center will house a Be Connected Navigator. The navigator will work to provide connections to veteran supportive resources that exist across Arizona and help to troubleshoot barriers to accessing those resources.
The second phase of this initiative will include the deployment of an Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services Veteran Benefits Counselor (VBC) through a pilot program, which will establish a satellite office and create access for service members residing in the West Valley. VBCs are accredited by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and advocate for Arizona’s service members, veterans and their families with receiving federal and state veteran benefits. The services provided by the VBC will be available three days a week beginning this fall at a date to be announced.
“We always aim to eliminate barriers to accessing benefits for Arizona’s veteran community,” says Retired Air Force Colonel Wanda Wright, Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services Director. “We don’t want anyone to be more than 50 miles away from a VBC. This collaboration helps us put VBCs closer to the people who need them.”
This new location in Surprise not only allows a space for military and veteran specific services, but also full wrap-around services at the same spot since the center is located within the Surprise Resource Center, which offers general social service support.
Home of the Brave
The new center in Surprise is a replacement home for Rio Salado’s MVSC at Luke AFB, which was built to complement on-base services and provide more ease of access to veterans and civilian populations as it was located outside the base gates. It closed last October to make way for new security and construction.
The MVSC at Luke AFB center opened Nov. 9, 2017 as one of two resource hubs dedicated to helping active military, veterans and their families transition to civilian life through holistic services managed by Rio Salado with the support of the Maricopa Community Colleges, the Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation and many community partners, all of whom are continuing their support through the new West Valley MVSC in Surprise.
When Rio Salado and Luke AFB set out to find a new home for their center, they had no idea they would find an army of support that would so quickly deploy to provide a new space— and take over the duties of serving West Valley military communities.
“Through the support of Luke Air Force Base, we have served active military members and their families since 1979,” said Greg Pereira, Rio Salado Vice President of Student Affairs. “This is a wonderful partnership that has led to the need for expanding services off the base, as obtaining base access can be a barrier for some veterans. We now have an additional home and an army of community partners to help us continue the mission and legacy of working with West Valley veteran populations in a location that provides easier access. We are delighted to support West Valley Military and Veteran Success Center and provide educational support services for our military communities at this new location and at Luke Air Force Base."
To learn more about the West Valley Military and Veteran Success Center, call (623) 222-1658 or visit https://www.surpriseaz.gov/3864/West-Valley-Military-and-Veteran-Success.
Service members, veterans and their families located anywhere in Arizona can also access statewide resources and services at no cost by calling the Be Connected Support Line at (866) 4AZ-VETS (866-429-8387) and visiting BeConnectedAZ.org.
Learn more about Rio Salado’s Military and Veteran Services: https://www.riosalado.edu/military-and-veteran-services/veterans-services.
Rio Salado would like to thank these generous community leaders and donors for contributing to the successful launch of the MVSC at Luke AFB and for their continued support of its mission at the new West Valley MVSC in Surprise.
- ADM Group
- Archimedes Hill Investments
- AZ Pro Graphics
- City of Avondale
- City of Buckeye
- City of El Mirage
- City of Glendale
- City of Goodyear
- City of Litchfield Park
- City of Peoria
- City of Surprise
- City of Tolleson
- Credit Union West
- EPCOR Water
- Grainger Foundation, Inc.
- Henkel Consumer Goods, Inc.
- John F. Long Foundation
- JP Morgan Chase & Co.
- Liberty Utilities Corporation
- Lockheed Martin Corporation
- Maricopa County Industrial Development Authority
- Mellon Family Foundation
- OCM Recycle West
- Pop-A-Lock of Phoenix
- The Kroger Co. Foundation
- Tohono O'odham Nation
- Town of Youngtown