By Christine June
A few yards away from rabbits the size of small dogs was Mark Mazarella helping veterans the best way he knew how.
He volunteered to man the booth for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Division of Veterans/Military Education Jan. 12 at the 95th Annual Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.
“This booth attracts veterans,” said Mazarella, who is the Harrisburg Battalion’s Education Services specialist, on why he has volunteered for this event for the past five years.
His reason for being there are threefold. His number one reason was to assist with the battalion’s prior service enlistment mission.
“It’s an opportunity for me to engage veterans and promote prior service reenlistment options,” Mazarella said.
Secondly, many schools in the battalion’s area of responsibility offer field trips to the farm show.
“Bus loads of juniors and seniors are visiting every day here, and I am able to talk to our target market about Army specific education programs like “March 2 Success” and ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) scholarships,” he said.
Networking and developing COIs (Center of Influence) is his third reason. Within the hour, Mazarella met a new COI, Kerry Miller, an admissions counselor at the Harrisburg University, who was interested in the Army’s Concurrent Admissions Program (ConAp), which is a partnership between the Army Recruiting Command and more than 1,950 participating colleges. The program serves as a liaison between Army recruiters, ConAP colleges, Army education centers and the higher education community to increase enlistment of college-capable active duty and reserve Soldiers.
“It’s a natural marriage,” said Randy McKinney, a veteran’s education advisor with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Division of Veterans/Military Education, referring to the working relationship with Mazarella. “We both have the same objective to help veterans, and in both of our cases, we specifically help them with education opportunities.”
Each year, said McKinney, this division of the Pennsylvania Department of Education hosts a booth as part of its outreach efforts to reach and provide veterans about their education benefits, such as the GI Bill and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation program.
Another part of his job, said McKinney, is to visit with recruiters giving them information on veteran education opportunities.
“Number one for them – they are going to be veterans one day,” said McKinney, on the importance of visiting recruiting stations. “They can also pass on the information to the people who they are recruiting and help explain to these new recruits what is available to them for education.”
The largest indoor agricultural event in America, the Pennsylvania Farm Show features products, farm equipment and livestock. It is a showplace for farmers to see the most up-to-date farm equipment, and farming practices and needs while providing non-farmers with an educational showcase to learn about agriculture and how the products they consume are harvested or processed.