Each month, the veterans center at Central Lakes College in Brainerd organizes an event to help veterans and their families feel like part of the community. There was a night out for adults at a local VFW with free day care. There was tubing at Breezy Point. Each day it offers free snacks, beverages and a hot lunch for students. Every Monday at noon there are group sessions for post-traumatic stress disorder. The school has also moved its veterans center next to the main entrance to increase its visibility.

As part of the strategy, the veterans center is hosting a college fair at Camp Ripley in April that is open to the entire community, including high schoolers, veterans and anyone else interested in looking at options for higher education in central Minnesota.

The college’s veterans center coordinator, Kathy Marshik, said she hopes to make the college fair an annual event, recognizing the growing need for veterans to have a one-stop shop for resources available to them. This will become increasingly important as members of the active-duty military rejoin the civilian world.

“As a military member, veteran and community advocate, I feel it is part of my personal duty as a leader to work with our society, reaching out to high school students, adult learners and those who may be unemployed,” said Marshik, a 21-year member of the Minnesota National Guard. “Education is important to me, and offering an event where such a wonderful plethora of colleges, universities, private, public and online, team up to help people is quite marvelous.”

More than 30 colleges and technical schools are scheduled to attend, with information on scholarships, grants, financial aid, admissions and registration. Veterans Affairs education representatives will also be available. Central Lakes students who attend are eligible for a $25 gas card, and transportation will be provided if needed.

No registration is required. The event is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 5 at the Camp Ripley Conference Center, Bldg. 8-195, in Little Falls. For more, call Marshik at 218-855-8279 or e-mail her at kmarshik@clcmn.edu.