Veterans Day Breakfast celebrates veteran students, staff, faculty

Veterans, students, and faculty came together at Pomona College’s Smith Campus Center for the second annual Veterans Day Breakfast. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)

Community members of the Claremont Colleges came together at the Pomona College Smith Campus Center for the Veterans Day Breakfast Nov. 12 from 8-9:30 a.m. to celebrate veteran students, staff, and faculty.

The event, sponsored by the President’s Office, is in its second year, with plans to become an annual event. Christina Ciambriello, chief of staff and one of the event organizers, said the event’s purpose was to “bring people together.”

Ciambriello said she feels that many people on campus are unaware that there are veterans in several departments at Pomona, though they may know of student veterans.

“A lot of [staff members] are Vietnam war veterans, and people don’t like to talk about that war,” Ciambriello said. “They had to go, and then we don’t want to talk about it.”

Pomona President G. Gabrielle Starr described the event as a celebration of Pomona’s veterans to honor their service and express gratitude.

She spoke of the “renewed concerted effort to ensure that veterans have access to a Pomona education,” saying that “it is beneficial to all of us to bring that experience back to campus.”

One of the breakfast speakers was Bill Ahmanson, founder of the Ahmanson Veterans Student Initiative. AVSI assists veterans in pursuing a college degree and receiving financial aid in California, according to the foundation’s website.

Ahmanson said the scholarship initiative, now in its sixth year, evolved quickly, as Los Angeles County has more returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans than anywhere else in the country.

The goal of AVSI is to “recruit, retain, and educate” veterans, covering any necessary costs to help remove obstacles that stand in the way of graduation, and helping veterans leave with as little debt as possible, Ahmanson said.

“Everybody wants veterans in their schools because veterans bring something new to the classroom,” he said.

Morgan Dyson PO ’19, a veteran majoring in public policy analysis with a concentration in politics, also spoke at the breakfast.

Dyson founded the Veteran’s Mentorship Program, which he said is a program that organizes events for student veterans to “get together and share [their] experiences and talk about the challenges [they] may be having.”

Dyson said he felt the mentorship program was important because veterans can “easily get lost in the shuffle” of a demanding college environment. He wanted to create a space to foster a sense of community among the members, a space where veteran students could feel “supported, seen, and heard.”  

A handful of students attended the event. Lerrick Gordon PO ’22 said he decided to come because his father, grandparents, and great grandfather were all veterans. He was glad Pomona recognized veterans.

Another attendee was veteran Ronald D. Nemo, Pomona’s grounds manager of landscaping, who has worked at Pomona for 21 years. He served in the military in Germany from 1981 to 1986.

“I appreciate it, being a veteran, appreciate Pomona College, all the students that are here,” he said. “You guys motivate me every day ‘cause of your energy and willingness to hear our stories.”

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