HCC snags funding to help expand vet services nationwide

Hillsborough Community College has received $275,000 in federal funds to expand veterans services offered through a partnership with New York’s Syracuse University.

Chosen by Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) -- the national leader in veterans’ entrepreneurship education, advocacy, and research -- HCC will support IVMF’s Community Navigator Pilot Program funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“This elevates a local community college (HCC) to the national stage, and helps solidify HCC as a national leader in entrepreneurship education,” asserts Beth Kerly, an associate professor and co-Founder of HCC InLab, a hub for innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, and social venture.   

“This funding that we got is for a national footprint. … The bulk of that money is to allow HCC to be a leader in the national rollout of STRIVE [Startup Training Resources to Inspire Veteran Entrepreneurship] into other markets,” she says. 

Ultimately, more resources will flow back to the Tampa Bay Area as well.

“As we become more recognized nationally, we’ll make new connections. Those resource will help [here],” explains Andy Gold PhD, an assistant professor and co-Founder of HCC InLab.

WalletHub recognized Tampa as the best place in the nation for veterans to live in 2021, after reviewing key indicators for the largest 100 U.S. cities. St. Petersburg ranked 13.

IVMF was awarded a $5 million grant as part of a $100 million Community Navigator Program. The grant will provide entrepreneurship education to veteran and military spouse businesses, along with technical assistance, loan preparation, and other services.

The program is expected to impact thousands of veterans and families served by IVMF during he next two years, helping folks like Brandon Dutkiewicz, a first semester HCC student who travels from Spring Hill for entrepreneurial instruction and mentoring.

Dutkiewicz, founder of Support a Troop, a gift registry designed to boost the morale and lifestyle of troops overseas, says he was at a loss before learning about STRIVE.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Dutkiewicz says. “Standardized business school wasn’t teaching me any of this [entrepreneurship skills].”

He ended up enrolling at HCC after completing the three-phase STRIVE program, which includes a rigorous six-week training program and one year of active mentorship.

STRIVE launched at HCC in 2019 after IVMF discovered some veterans were having difficulty starting and growing their businesses. It has served 120 veterans at HCC.

“We co-created [STRIVE] with IVMF,” explains Gold. “It was an extraordinarily successful test.”

The HCC funding is expected to bolster curriculum development and expand its annual Veterans Entrepreneurship Training Symposium, which brings together community stakeholders to support the military. This year’s event was held on Saturday, Nov. 6.

Through its partnership with IVMF, HCC will be funnel students to cost-free programs like Boots to Business, Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship, and the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans.

IVMF also will be collaborating with other key partners, including Florida State University and Texas A & M University.

Established under the American Rescue Plan, the SBA Community Navigator Grant issues $1 million to $5 million awards to help entrepreneurs recover from the effects of COVID-19, start a business or expand. Underserved entrepreneurs, including the economically disadvantaged, women and veterans are given priority.
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Read more articles by Cheryl Rogers.

Cheryl Rogers is a freelance writer and editor who enjoys writing about careers. An ebook author, she also writes Bible Camp Mystery series that shares her faith. She is publisher of New Christian Books Online Magazine and founder of the Mentor Me Career Network, a free online community, offering career consulting, coaching and career information. Now a wife and mother, Cheryl discovered her love of writing as a child when she became enthralled with Nancy Drew mysteries. She earned her bachelor's degree in Journalism and Sociology from Loyola University in New Orleans. While working at Loyola's Personnel Office, she discovered her passion for helping others find jobs. A Miami native, Cheryl moved to the Temple Terrace area in 1985 to work for the former Tampa Tribune