CU staff members make waves

Courtesy of Vicki Henson
(Left) Catherine Orozco-Christmas received the President’s Award, and (Right) Vicki Henson received the Past President’s Award at the Western Association of Veterans Education Specialists (WAVES) training conference, held in July in California.

Vicky Smith
Assistant Managing Editor
@pinkwritinglady

Two Cameron University staff members received honors at the Western Association of Veterans Education Specialists (WAVES) training conference, held July 26-29 in Anaheim, Calif. Coordinator of Veterans Affairs Vicki Henson received the Past President’s Award, and Catherine Orozco-Christmas received the President’s Award.
According to a press release, “WAVES provides training and fosters communication and cooperation between all concerned and interested institutions and agencies on matters affecting the education of and the application, processing, and serving of those eligible to receive VA educational benefits on college campuses.”
Henson said she started working at Cameron University on Aug. 14, 1986, and one of her titles has always been the coordinator of Veterans Affairs.
“I’ve dedicated my professional life to serving the veterans, service members and dependents on this campus,” she said. “My heart is that we provide them with the best possible quality education but also the best quality of service that we possibly can. I’ve always had a passion for those success stories.”
Henson received the WAVES Past President’s Award for the contributions she has given to the program. As a two-time president of WAVES, Henson served her first term from 2007-2009 and her second, most recent term from 2013-2015.
“I’ve worked with the program,” she said, “[and] probably had an instrumental role in helping with development of the program, at least 17 out of the last 19 years [the program has been in place].”
Henson said the purpose of the three-day conference held in July was to train certified officials in assisting veterans, their dependents and active-duty service members.
“We have national-level speakers,” Henson said. “We had general sessions one day, and then we have 28 workshops. … We also have a resource fair, where we have over 20 tables.”
According to Henson, nearly a thousand school-certifying officials attended the conference, which WAVES planned in partnership with the Federal Department of Veteran Affairs.
“If we train our school-certifying officials how things work,” she said, “then the absolutely wonderful thing that happens is that our students on all those campuses get a higher quality of services.”
Henson said she has been blessed to be a part of WAVES because she has developed professional relationships and personal friendships.
“We all share the same heart for wanting to take care of our students,” she said. “When you have a like heart on what your goal is, you come at it from different directions, but you share a similar passion, then friendship buds from that. You support each other, you help each other, [and] you share ideas.”
One person with whom Henson has built a professional relationship is Catherine Orozco-Christmas, who received the President’s Award at the conference and who is a veteran certification specialist with the office of Veterans Affairs at Cameron.
Orozco-Christmas said her job every day is to make sure veterans, their dependents and active-duty service members are taken care of financially.
“I do a lot of the checks and balances to make sure forms are good or paperwork’s good,” she said. “I make sure it’s sent to VA. … What I learn at WAVES I bring back home to make sure that paperwork’s done correctly.”
Like Henson, Orozco-Christmas has a passion for her job.
“I’m an army brat,” she said. “I went to high school in an air force community. I’m a navy wife; my husband is now a veteran – he’s a disabled veteran – so the military’s a part of my blood.
“It’s my heart and soul, so I love what I do because I can make the difference. I can see them [veterans] getting out of service, walking the graduation stage and fulfilling a dream at the end of it. … That’s just wonderful in my eyes.”
Orozco-Christmas said she believes WAVES will continue to grow.
“[WAVES has] gone from a regional organization to a national in the last year,” she said. “I think with growing, you have more power to change things on Capitol Hill, so I think that, at least on our end, it’d help our students enormously.”
For more information about WAVES, contact the office of Veterans Affairs by calling (580)581-2301 or visiting its location at 332 North Shepler.

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