Nearly 8,000 students attend Leeward Community College—60 percent are women, about 25 percent are Hawaiian or part Hawaiian and 12 percent are active duty military, veterans or dependents and Leeward is paying close attention to its demographics.

“So we are really just trying to step up our game and specifically focus on the needs of individual groups, so the veterans are certainly one of our priorities,” said Leeward Community College Chancellor Manuel Cabral.

The college has dramatically increased its military and veteran services in the last 12 months and began holding events in fall 2012 on the first Friday of each month. First Friday gets faculty, support staff and the students together on a regular basis.

“We want our mil vets to have a place where they can come and tell us, this is what we need so that we can address their needs,” said Leeward Associate Professor Kay Ono.

“We will be heard and our concerns will be heard and I guess we can voice those concerns to somebody who will be listening,” said military veteran and Leeward student Van Hill. “So that’s huge.”

First Friday also provides a sense of place and an opportunity for veterans to network and is just the latest step the college has taken.

Leeward has hired a full-time grant writer who has secured numerous grants to pay for things like testing so veterans can earn college level credits for past experience. Leeward has also hired a full-time veteran’s coordinator.

“She helps us so much,” said military veteran and Leeward student Gene Tijing. “She’s like our liaison in getting our benefits and transferring it over here without us having to do our paperwork.”

“We’re just trying to combine our efforts as a campus to help our mil vets, to bring the resources to them and get organized so that they can take the maximum benefits out of their GI Bills,” said Ono.

There is a lot of synergy between the different efforts and students say it is greatly appreciated.

“Things that needed changing and they’ve put forth the efforts and taken steps towards it, so good times ahead,” said Hill.

“We want the best education for our mil vets because they deserve it,” said Ono.