The Student Veterans Organization (SVO) at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) held a club activity last week going by the theme of “Celebrating our Student Veterans on Campus”. The event included recognition of the contributions and service of the student veterans at ASCC who actively participate in the SVO, followed by the presentation of the club’s 2019 Non-Pell scholarship to an ASCC student, and finally a competition involving other ASCC clubs to determine which of them could best navigate a military “boot camp”-style obstacle course.
Active at ASCC since 2015, the SVO promotes unity, pride and interaction among VA students, dependents, and friends. It provides the resources, support and advocacy necessary for veterans to achieve success in higher education and post-graduation. The SVO strives to provide a fun and supportive group with which all members can engage, while cultivating respect for patriotism and for those who have served in the line of duty.
Last week’s SVO activity opened with ASCC Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Services Counselor Lydian Tinitali recognizing the student veterans who lead the organization. Roger Sagaga (President), Tai Williams (Vice President), Malaia Vaiau (Secretary/Treasurer), and members Leon Fuata, Darnall Fuaiava and Lotoa Lotoa each received leis presented by Miss American Samoa Epifania Petelo, Miss ASCC Grace Lagai, and Dean of Student Services Dr. Emelia Le’i. Next came the announcement of ASCC student Iaeli Faifili as the recipient of the third SVO scholarship, intended to assist individuals who do not qualify for the federal financial aid available to students born in American Samoa. Miss American Samoa, Miss ASCC and Dean Le’i congratulated Faifili and presented her with a Certificate of Recognition.
For the remainder of the activity, the ASCC student veterans served as guides for members of five campus clubs as they each made their way through an obstacle course set up on the main campus lawn. Competing clubs included Fantastic Four, Team X-Factorials, Team Chaos, Code Black, and Meto Love, and the SVO awarded first, second and third place prizes for the four-person teams based on the time it took them to complete the course. The student veterans designed the obstacle course based on their own training, and the ASCC ROTC club assisted with the setup.
“We held this activity to help raise student awareness of our club, and mostly to connect with our veterans on campus to let them know we provide peer support,” explained Tinitali. “As the College’s VA Counselor, I try to identify the challenges and needs of student veterans on campus.” Tinitali’s scope of work includes assisting veterans with the VA Education Benefits process, answering their questions about VA education programs, certifying enrollment data to the VA, providing orientation for veterans, and linking them to affiliated VA services such as the local Veteran’s Center. “Our veterans have a wealth of knowledge and life experience through military service,” she reflected. “As they transition now to civilian life and return to college seeking a new field through technical and career education programs, they’ve earned all of the support we can offer them.”
Tinitali expressed her gratitude to the administration, Student Government Organization and ROTC Club at ASCC, and to private sector entities MASI Inc., Evolve Fitness, and Night Hawk Restaurant for their support of the SVO. For more information on services available to veterans at ASCC, contact Tinitali at 699-2722, extension 0005.