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CSEA member helps veterans reach educational goals


During her career, Donni Jean Prince has helped make possible the education of a wider age range of students than probably anyone else at College of the Desert. Prince, a veterans resource specialist and member of College of the Desert Chapter 407, was named one of California’s Community College Classified Employees of the Year in 2015. The award honors community college classified employees who demonstrate the highest level of commitment to professionalism and community colleges.

Prince helps 70-year-old Vietnam veterans and 22-year-old Iraq/Afghanistan veterans alike meet their educational needs. Veteran students generally enroll in “remedial instruction,” “adult noncredit instruction” and “vocational instruction” areas of study. She helps them use Veterans Affairs benefits to obtain degrees or certificates that will provide the veterans with new career opportunities.

“Working with the VA is probably the most challenging part of my job because I have to learn all the new regulations,” she said.

Every day, Prince draws from her vast experience and keen observational skills to provide veteran students with guidance and support from their first day at the college through graduation. Homelessness and poverty plague the veteran population at an alarming rate and Prince’s work has been vital in providing student veterans with the tools, knowledge and support to graduate and improve their financial and social well-being.

Prince said that a lucky coincidence led her to working with the veteran population at the college. She attended College of the Desert and was a student worker there. When an opportunity arose in the Veterans Services Department at the college, she knew that’s where she belonged.

“I find working with veterans really rewarding,” she said. “This job is something that people do for a really long time or for a really short time. My father was a veteran and when this position opened up, it just happened to be the perfect fit for me.”

Prince was recognized by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and the California Community College Board of Governors along with three other winners: Rochelle Franco of Los Rios Community College District, Kelly Ramos of Contra Costa Community College District and Vance Manakas of Ventura County Community College District.