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Serving Those Who Served

Rachel is the Senior Director of Financial Aid and Veterans Services at CFCC. She has been with the college for 24 years after serving 21 years in the banking industry. She is married and has one nephew.

Twenty-four years ago, I came to Cape Fear Community College after 21 years of banking. My position of Assistant Director of Financial and Veterans Services was a new position for the school due to the enrollment growth. My main areas were student loans and veterans services. When I started we put everything on paper and mailed loans and VA certifications in to be processed.

We have come a long way since then. Now we certify everything through the VA website. I have seen the VA make a lot of changes during my 24 years. Some have been done with ease and some not as easily, but the students and certifying officials made it through the changes.

Like so many Americans, I remember where I was and what I was doing on the morning of September 11, 2001. A lot of our students today are the brave young men and women who stepped up to fight for their country after 9/11. It is truly the “Home of the Free because of the Brave.”

The first Veterans Center was in S-400. Bob Philpott and I were suitemates and welcomed and served the veteran students. I have seen many veterans over the last 24 years. I have sat by the bedside of one of our young men who tried to commit suicide, and had another young man come into my office one day and said that he didn’t think he was going to make it through the day. I immediately took him to my friend and colleague, Jackie Foster, who got him the help that he needed, and he did make it through the day.

In October 2013, the Veterans Center moved to Union Station where we have a lounge and computer center along with two offices for staff. The veterans say the center is their USO. Over the years, I have stayed as late as 7:00 when one young man came in close to 5:00. I asked him what he had completed to come to school, and he replied “nothing.” He did not even know where to start. We did his admission application and applied for his VA benefits. When this young man graduated, he told the registrar’s office that he was graduating because of my help in the very beginning. This is why I love coming to work every day, feeling that I am helping our students.

One semester we had six veterans (two females and four males) graduate with a nursing degree. The nursing students always take a class picture when they graduate. These six stayed back and took a picture for me of them. I have that picture in my office and display it proudly. These are just a few of my experiences.

Most of the veterans always call me Ms. Cavenaugh and along the way, I have also earned the title “Mama Bear,” as I have always been protective like a Mama Bear over her cubs and try to look out for our veteran students and their families since they have made great sacrifices for their country.

I now have veterans who were students at CFCC many years ago that are now bringing their children in for help. This makes me proud to see the veterans doing well and having families. They now are entrusting their children to me.

It always makes me proud to see our veterans walk across the stage at graduation being recognized with their red, white and blue cords which is something that was started many years ago by Bob Philpott.

I truly feel that this job has allowed me to “Serve those that have Served” and although I am no longer located in the Veterans Center, the veterans’ well being is still in me. The old saying that if you love your job you will never work a day is how I truly feel about serving students at CFCC.

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