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Student veterans discuss BC3’s priority registration, Military Friendly School designation

Alan Lutz, of New Castle, is shown Wednesday, March 13, at BC3 @ Lawrence Crossing in New Castle. Lutz was a cannoneer in the Army. He intends to complete courses required for consideration in the selective-admissions registered nursing program on BC3’s main campus. Submitted Photo

It is the opportunity to schedule courses first that Butler County Community College student-veterans say they appreciate about the Military Friendly School’s respect for those who served in the U.S. armed forces.

This spring, Alan Lutz and 65 other former or active members of the Air Force, Army, Army Reserve, Marine Corps, National Guard or Navy took courses in person at BC3.

“Veterans in Western Pennsylvania and across the country have spent time protecting this great nation,” said Lutz, of New Castle. “Having sacrificed that time earlier in our lives, BC3 allowing us to register that early and get us through our schooling quicker is definitely a big help.”

Lutz is 56. Nearly half of BC3’s student-veterans this spring were 30 or older.

A 2014 state law requires institutions of higher education in Pennsylvania to provide student-veterans preference in course scheduling.

“I have taken advantage of the early class registration,” said Jesica Lookhart, 41, of Worthington. “I thought it was amazing that we could sign up for our classes so early.”

Lutz enlisted in the Army at age 18, where he was a cannoneer with self-propelled howitzers.

Lookhart enlisted at age 24 in the Army Reserve, where she was a heavy equipment operator and was trained as a combat lifesaver.

Lutz enrolled in fall 2023 at BC3 @ Lawrence Crossing in New Castle and Lookhart at BC3 @ Armstrong in Ford City.

Lutz, a former first responder in Western Pennsylvania manufacturing facilities, and Lookhart, a certified nursing assistant, intend to complete courses required for consideration in the selective-admissions registered nursing program on BC3’s main campus.

“I give the student-veterans 100% credit in that they want to go back to school,” said William McNutt, a Navy veteran and commander of Butler County American Legion Post 778, which funds one of seven scholarships designated for BC3 student-veterans through the BC3 Education Foundation.

“They have served our country and are making the transition to what lies ahead. The first stepping stone is BC3 putting them ahead of other students.”

The college also offers student-veterans orientations guided by former BC3 student-veterans, a designated lounge, and a study room during finals week, according to Stella Smith, the college’s associate director of financial aid and its veterans coordinator.

BC3 also provides to student-veterans a Green Zone.

The college’s Green Zone, comprised of more than 20 administrators and faculty members who have received specialized training, educates other faculty and staff members about the military experience, challenges student-veterans attending BC3 face when transitioning from military service to civilian life and to college, and resources and basic resource referral techniques.

“If those resources weren’t available, I definitely think the transition for a lot of people coming back to school would be a lot more difficult,” said Dakota Wood, of Cranberry Township.

Wood, 27, enlisted at age 17 in the Marine Corps, where he was an infantryman who conducted training in offensive and defensive operations. He is an independent contractor and a student in the business administration program on BC3’s main campus.

“The student lounge is just an incredibly nice space to study and prepare for classes,” Wood said. “There are a lot of things in there that feel a little more reminiscent of having that structure that I was used to, and then also the privacy. It’s not in the middle of everything. It’s not overwhelming.”

BC3’s student-veterans in the spring semester represented Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Jefferson and Lawrence counties, according to Stella Smith.

Connor Stewart, of DuBois, intends to complete courses required for consideration in the college’s selective-admissions registered nursing program at BC3 @ Brockway.

Stewart, 26, enlisted at age 19 in the Marine Corps, where he was a mechanic who worked on amphibious assault vehicles. The former construction worker, hunting outfitter and hunting guide in Montana attends BC3 @ Brockway and, like Lutz and Lookhart, was a health care science student in the spring.

“A lot of us who are getting out of the military are kicking around different ideas,” Stewart said. “We may not be entirely sure of what we want to do. And when we see a place like BC3 that can kind of take care of us and help us to achieve what we are setting out to achieve; it’s a good feeling.”

This spring, Viqtory, a group that supports people who are leaving the military, designated BC3 as a Military Friendly School for an eighth time.

The service-disabled, veteran-owned small business in Moon Township assesses educational institutions nationwide. Its 2024-25 Military Friendly School designation is weighted on factors that include military student support and retention, graduation and career outcomes, culture and commitment, and admissions and orientation.

Bill Foley is coordinator of news and media content at Butler County Community College.

Alan Lutz, of New Castle, is shown serving on guard duty and requesting permission to allow a soldier returning from battalion headquarters to enter a firing base in 1986 in Germany. Lutz was a cannoneer in the Army. He intends to complete courses required for consideration in the selective-admissions registered nursing program on BC3’s main campus. Submitted Photo
Jesica Lookhart, of Worthington, was a heavy equipment operator and trained as a combat lifesaver in the Army Reserve. She intends to complete courses required for consideration in the selective-admissions registered nursing program on BC3’s main campus. Submitted Photo
Jesica Lookhart, of Worthington, is shown during basic training in 2007 in Fort Jackson, S.C. Lookhart was a heavy equipment operator and trained as a combat lifesaver in the Army Reserve. She intends to complete courses required for consideration in the selective-admissions registered nursing program on BC3’s main campus. Submitted Photo
Dakota Wood, of Cranberry Township, is shown during a fast-roping drill from UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters in 2015 in North Carolina. Wood was an infantryman who conducted training in offensive and defensive operations in the Marine Corps. He now studies business administration on BC3’s main campus. Submitted Photo
Dakota Wood, of Cranberry Township, was an infantryman who conducted training in offensive and defensive operations in the Marine Corps. Submitted Photo

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