The Porterville Chamber of Commerce was host to a group of women on Saturday morning for the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Porterville Branch Program. 

Two speakers were featured for the morning’s program. Maria Roman spoke about Veterans resources at Porterville College (PC), and Teresa Dela Rosa spoke about current immigration issues.

The program began with Virginia Gurrola, the President for the Porterville branch of AAUW, who introduced herself and presented the program calendar for AAUW next year. She then introduced Patti Serrato, a past president for the women’s group, and Serrato proudly presented the first speaker for the day, Roman. 

Roman walked to the front of the room and stated her daughter and son-in-law both serve in the military, and she was proud of them. She then began talking about PC and how long she has been there. Roman started as a student at PC in 1979, but came back to the college as a staff member in 2001. She has been there ever since. Roman works for the college as the VA Counselor and is involved in the lives of the Veteran students during their time at PC.

Roman shared an article she referred to as “bad news” which she had come across in USA Today’s June 8 edition. It stated that 71 percent of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are ineligible to join the military due to obesity, lack of a high school diploma or a criminal record. 

Roman then moved on to discuss her “good news” from PC. She highlighted the Veterans Resource Center on campus, and stated Veterans just want to reconnect with the community they left when they return from their service.

She spoke a little bit about the college’s Buddy Check 22 program, which sheds light on the suicide rate amongst Veterans every day. 

Roman then said there are currently between 80 and 90 military families at PC and 44 Veterans currently enrolled in classes. Last year, 22 Veterans graduated from the college. Roman said out of the 44 Veterans on campus, five of them are female, and some of the Veterans choose to work as student employees on campus. Roman then stated Veterans are protected by the state to receive priority registration for each new semester, and she’s working with two prospective Veteran students, one from Florida and the other from South Carolina, who will be returning to Porterville for their schooling.

As she spoke, many of the women in the room had some questions. Roman was asked if PC helps Veterans psychologically, if requested, to which Roman replied yes, and the same services were offered throughout each college campus in the district. 

Roman was asked a question concerning GI BIll qualifications and if family members of Veterans can receive the same benefits. Roman answered not all family members of Veterans can receive those GI BIll benefits, and that eligibility was specific. Roman explained Veterans can choose to transfer unused GI Bill money to their children, but the GI BIll is only effective for 36 months of schooling as long as it’s used within 10 years of the Veteran’s service.

Roman talked for roughly 20 minutes, and then took her seat again as Dela Rosa was introduced. Dela Rosa made her way up to the front of the room to speak about immigration, after introducing herself. 

Dela Rosa is the Director of Advocacy for Ola Raza, and has spent years of her life dedicated to immigration rights and protecting immigrants throughout the Central Valley. With her husband right by her side, Dela Rosa said she has tried to touch the lives of countless immigrant families, and still strives to help educate immigrants on their legal rights.

Dela Rosa passed out several sheets of paper containing different types of information. One document she talked about quite a bit was the preference classes for immigration visas. Dela Rosa stated if a U.S. citizen is attempting to immigrate his or her unmarried sons or daughters to the United States from Mexico, the wait to receive that citizenship for their children is 22 years. She said those who applied in August of 1997 are now barely receiving their legalized citizenship.

She then moved on to speak a little bit about the Trump administration and the fees the president is proposing that will affect immigrants greatly. Dela Rosa presented a table with the current fees and the proposed fee increase, all of which had been increased by more than 50 percent. 

As Dela Rosa finished her speech, Gurrola took the floor to announce the upcoming events for the Porterville branch of AAUW. The group will be hosting two more speakers on Saturday, February 1, and will then host a luncheon in March to celebrate Women’s History Month.

To find out more about AAUW and its message, visit www.aauw.org.

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