By Marko Salopek, reporter
PPCC’s Director of Military and Veterans Program (MVP), Paul Dececco, says his mission as the new program director is to “empower military personnel, veterans, and their families to achieve their academic, career, and personal goals.”
Dececco, who has been at his post since Oct. 1, 2017, grew up in eastern Pennsylvania, and attended Pennsylvania State University through the ROTC program. After graduating from Penn State, he went on to serve in the army for the next 29 years – 10 years as infantry, and 19 years as a foreign area officer.
During his time in the army, Dececco was stationed in Colorado on two separate occasions. After falling in love with this great state, he and his wife bought a house with the intention of eventually settling down in Colorado Springs.
After retiring from the army on Aug. 1, 2017, Dececco moved back to Colorado and began looking for a new job. His priorities were that he wanted to work at the local level, impact peoples’ lives, and be proud of the organization he worked for. The position at PPCC checked all of these boxes.
Despite the program being approximately 25-30 percent understaffed, PPCC was listed among the best military friendly schools for 2018 by the Military Times, ranking 25th in the country and 1st in Colorado for two year institutions.
However, Dececco believes the program has a responsibility to do more than just ensure veterans receive their entitlements, and he is attempting to finally fill these vacant positions and gain much needed manpower.
An integral way the program empowers our veterans involves their transition to civilian life.
To make this transition easier, Dececco wants to increase outreach within PPCC, to both military and non-military students.
Approximately 25 percent of PPCC students are military affiliated, more than any other school in Colorado. The hope is to educate our non-military students and faculty on the unique hardships that our military and veteran students may face.
Another step in aiding our veterans’ transition involves community outreach. A portion of our veteran students need help that PPCC is unable to provide. Luckily, there are numerous services to assist veterans in Colorado Springs. So many, in fact, it can be difficult to know which to use for what type of assistance.
As Dececco put it, “It is like trying to find a specific tree in an entire forest.”
MVP will work to discover and aggregate information on these services so they can direct students right to the specific tree they need.
The most important step in the transition to civilian life revolves around reconstructing the sense of community that our veterans had while serving.
“We don’t want to isolate the veterans. We don’t want them to become a separate group,” Dececco said. “Everything we do should be facilitating their integration into the rest of the community.”
To further that end, the program is starting up a new Student Veterans Organization (SVO). The organization will act as a hub for students to meet, hangout, share information, and help each other out.
In addition, the SVO plans to organize fun social activities, such as hiking, snowboarding, or movie nights.
In the spirit of an integrated community, non-veterans are also encouraged to attend SVO events.
For more information related to PPCC Military Programs, visit www.ppcc.edu/military