Veterans Services Coordinator Provides a Vital Link for Students
Each semester, dozens of local veterans enroll at Northern Essex Community College, ready to begin a new phase of life. And Veterans Services Coordinator Angela McCrillis is there to greet them. As a veteran herself, McCrillis has a deep understanding of what the transition to college life can be like and the kind of support those students need.
McCrillis enlisted in the Air Force when she was just 19 years old, living in Georgia. She met her husband while in the service. Together, they moved around the country and overseas to London before her husband’s latest orders brought them to Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, MA. Along the way, McCrillis used her own VA educational benefits to attain her bachelor’s degree. She then worked as a Veteran Certifying Official at Eastern New Mexico University. She says being a veteran and an active-duty spouse allows her to understand all sides of the veteran population.
“I take my job so seriously – I understand that balance,” McCrillis says. “I have a heart for people in general, I really stay on it to make sure [veteran students] are getting the assistance they need.”
McCrillis says she’s grateful for the collaborative spirit she’s encountered since she arrived at the college in February. In addition to her critical work connecting students with their veterans’ benefits, she sees many opportunities to educate others about the unique challenges veteran students face. For example, she is planning workshops for faculty on recognizing the signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“Veterans live a different life. You grow up quickly. These students went to basic training, carried a weapon around daily, and had various experiences while deployed. A 22-year-old veteran has seen more in a year than the average person ever sees.”
McCrillis is also planning several campus-wide events and programs to honor veterans and veteran students, including collaborating with the NECC Knights Men’s Basketball Team. They will wear special camouflage jerseys during a home game around Veterans Day. The jerseys will later be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to a local non-profit.
“It’s a great way to connect students with each other, who may not otherwise realize each other’s backgrounds.”
In 2021, Northern Essex was designated as a Military Friendly® School by Viqtory, a national organization that connects veterans with civilian education, employment, and entrepreneurial opportunities. About 75 veterans are enrolled this semester and McCrillis expects that number will rise in the spring. She says COVID-19 delayed college plans for many veteran students because they need to take the majority of their classes in person to get the maximum VA benefits.
The Veteran’s Office is located in SC214 on the Haverhill campus. McCrillis says students are welcome to stop by anytime. “I have an open-door policy. Come by and chat. I have snacks and coffee! I want students to connect with me not only professionally but as a mentor.” If students wish to make an appointment, they can contact Angela at firstname.lastname@example.org.