Pictured from left to right: Colonel David W. Sutherland, Chancellor Juan Salgado, Colonel Sam Whitehurst and UWUA National Director Rick Passerelli.

The Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services presented City Colleges of Chicago with the 2021 Lou Lowenkron Commitment to Veterans Excellence Award on December 14, in recognition of the Colleges’ support of veterans and their families; and for the launch of the UMAP program.

For more than a decade hundreds of veterans have walked through the doors of Kennedy-King College’s (KKC) Dawson Technical Institute with a specific goal in mind, to earn a good-paying job in the utility industry.  After they’ve successfully completed the Utility Workers Military Assistance Program (UMAP), that goal becomes a reality.

“Veterans aren’t looking for a hand out—they’re looking for an opportunity and they will do the work,” explained Richard Passarelli, the now National Director of Veterans Affairs for the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA), who helped launch the UMAP program nearly 10 years ago at City Colleges of Chicago.

Passarelli, a former Navy SEAL, saw the critical need to connect other veterans who had served the country with high-demand careers. When he brought the UWUA’s Local 18007, the UWUA Power for America Trust, and Peoples Gas together to develop the program.

Passarelli nominated City Colleges and Chancellor Salgado for this award.

Through UMAP, students take a series of general education and core courses at Dawson Tech for six months, where they’re focused on learning how to safely construct and operate natural gas distribution systems. Those who complete the training program receive a certificate of completion and 52 college credits towards their associate degree, and they’re offered a full-time technical position at Peoples Gas. Additionally, they’re able to take advantage of the resources offered by KKC’s Veterans Services Center throughout the duration of the program, as well the other supports offered to all students.

The awards namesake, Lou Lowenkron, said CCC was chosen for this award, in part, for its work helping 1,000s of veterans transition from the military to college and then to the workforce through the UMAP program.

“The work we are doing here with veterans at City Colleges of Chicago is just beginning. Rick worked to create the UMAP program to help our veterans overcome barriers…it is truly transformative” said Juan Salgado, Chancellor of CCC. “I accept this award on behalf of City Colleges with the promise to do all we can in service to our veterans and their families.”

The award was presented to Chancellor Salgado during a virtual Holiday Reception hosted by Dixon Center. Dixon Center provides some of the wrap around services for UMAP Veterans while they are going through the program.

Click here to watch the full award presentation on Facebook.