Porterville College is looking to raise money to pay for the parking passes of currently enrolled veteran students. The idea came from the April 24 email distribution of the “Today’s News – Office of Communications, California Community College State Chancellor’s Office” which included an article titled “Saving a Spot for a Veteran at Cuesta College.”
The article was about Cuesta College providing free parking passes for their veteran students in honor of a former student, Michael Mihalakis, who was killed in December 2003 while serving in Iraq.
While a student at Cuesta College, Mihalakis joined the Army National Guard and was deployed to Iraq. Mihalakis was planning to enroll back into classes at Cuesta College upon his return and emailed one of his former professors to “save a place for me” in his class because his unit would not return until soon after the start of the spring term. Within a month of sending the email, Mihalakis was killed in a Humvee accident in Baghdad.
To honor the memory of his former student, especially his commitment to education, the professor began and donated to a special foundation account to purchase parking permits for Cuesta College veterans. The parking permits are known as “Mikes” in remembrance of Michael Mihalakis.
Mihalakis’ story stirred Porterville College Vice President of Student Services and fellow veteran, Steve Schultz to formulate a plan. In that same spirit of Cuesta College, Porterville College is now looking to establish a foundation account to fund the purchase of parking permits for veterans. Rather than creating a new name, the parking permits would also be called “Mikes.”
“As I read this, I thought this could be something any campus could do as an honor to all service men and women who have paid the ultimate price for their country,” said Schultz. “As Michael asked his professor to do at Cuesta College, Porterville College would be “saving a place” in the parking lot for veterans to come and continue their education.”
Parking permits are required to park on campus but this expense is not covered under the Veterans Affairs educational benefit program. The cost of providing parking passes for veterans would not be funded through the campus general fund. Rather, funding will be through donations to a foundation account established for the specific purpose of providing additional support to veterans who are pursuing their educational goals at Porterville College. Therefore, when enough donations have been received free parking passes will be provided to veterans who are enrolled at Porterville College. “Porterville College has around 90 veterans, and at $20 for the parking passes, we will need to raise around $1,800 per term,” said Schultz.
At about $3,600 a year, multiple donations will be needed to continually fund the program. From speaking engagements with local civic organizations to social media, Schultz is hoping to get the word out and raise the necessary funds. He said he also hopes the establishment of a “Mike’s program” will inspire other college campuses to create the same.
Those interested in donating to the program can make a check out to the “Porterville College Foundation” and note on the check that this is for the “Veterans Resource Center – Mikes.” Checks should be sent to the Porterville College Foundation office, 100 E. College Avenue, Porterville, CA, 93257. You can also bring your check, or cash, into the Foundation office located in the Academic Center room 102 during regular business hours. For more information call (559) 791-2208.