Renovations underway for new lounge and food pantry serving student-veterans at North Seattle College

Renovations for a new lounge and food pantry to serve veterans are underway at North Seattle College. The construction work could not have come at a more critical time. With classes closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation is causing some student-veterans to struggle in their transition from a service member to a college student.

“For a community of people that don’t really reach out that much, coming to campus and being able to see each other every day, that’s our family. So it’s been hard, it’s been really hard,” said Chanette Purser-Smith, VetCorps Navigator for the college. “We try to keep in contact. I text, I call, so Zoom chats. But it has been difficult for everyone all around. Trying to get used to remote learning—a lot of us aren’t used to sitting in front of a computer learning that way.”

Purser-Smith, a U.S. Navy veteran, said she hopes a project she has been working on during the shutdown will spark encouragement in student-veterans. The VetCoprs navigator said she applied for a grant from King County to fund a complete renovation of the veteran’s lounge on campus.

“Just to see the doors open, and the community and the student veterans enjoying the space and loving it and it being a welcoming and all-inclusive space,” said Purser-Smith. “It’s for the community and I’m excited that it’s going to be something that is going to be here for a long time. It’s going to be amazing once it’s done and just to impact other people.”

When finished, the lounge will feature new floors, furniture, upgraded technology, a new kitchenette, and food pantry. The food service is something Purser-Smith said is a necessity, after noticing several student-veterans missing meals because they couldn’t afford them.

“That way we can make sure that student veterans aren’t in need and other veterans in the community aren’t going hungry and they can have something,” said Purser-Smith.

The veterans' lounge was supposed to be finished this fall. However, due to the pandemic, construction was halted until health and safety guidelines were in place.

Now the new goal is to finish the lounge by the end of the year. Whatever life will look like on campus after the pandemic, at least the lounge will be ready to help veterans in their journey as civilians.

“When you’re getting out, you want someone to understand what you’re talking about, you still use the military jargon, people look at you a little funny. We tend to be older when coming back to school,” said Purser-Smith. “It’s that comfort of having that community. So I think it’s really important. I’m really excited about it.”