"I am so impressed with how vet-friendly Anoka-Ramsey and the community is," says O'Donnell. "Anoka-Ramsey cared about veterans before it was fashionable to care."
O'Donnell comes to the position as a military veteran with a diverse background. After his two years Army service, he used the GI Bill to finish the bachelor's degree interrupted when he was drafted in 1972. Later he finished a master's degree. For more than a decade, he worked as an actor in the Twin Cities while maintaining a position at the University of Minnesota. Immediately prior to accepting the position at Anoka-Ramsey, O'Donnell worked as a veterans service officer for Anoka County for nine years.
"I took this position to help the veterans," says O'Donnell. "I know what it is like to be living a civilian life, then serve in the military, and then try to get used to civilian life again."
The Veterans Upward Bound program, structured to serve 120 veterans at Anoka-Ramsey, was made possible through a $1,250,000 TRIO Upward Bound grant received last fall and to be distributed over the next five years. The program offers instruction, tutoring, academic advising, career counseling, and assistance with college applications, the financial aid application process and connecting to community resources. Research proves that veterans in the program increase their chance of academic and personal success through the academic and personal support provided.
"I want veterans to know they have a place here at Anoka-Ramsey," O'Donnell says. "Vets in the college community are totally individuals, yet they are also part of many different groups. They may be women, foreign-born, seniors, in varying religions. But, no matter what their sub-group, they still have the veteran experience in common and we [Anoka-Ramsey] have a place for them."
Along with military service, veterans must be a first-generation college student and have a low to moderate income to qualify.
However all veterans, including those who don't qualify for the Upward Bound program, can still get assistance at Anoka-Ramsey's on-campus resource centers for veterans at both campuses. The Military Educational Resource Centers provide information, resources and referrals about benefits, such as the Montgomery GI bill, psychological assistance and physical injury, traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder support
O'Donnell is available for speaking engagements and individual conversations. He recognizes that the challenge of being a veteran can make higher education seems out of reach for some. He wants veterans to know there is help and resources available.
To reach O'Donnell directly, call 763-433-1687. For more information about all of the veterans programs Anoka-Ramsey Community College's veteran programs, call 763-433-1334 or visit www.AnokaRamsey.edu.