On Jan. 10, veterans were given the opportunity to partake in MDC Live Arts’ Vet Lab, a writing lab program aimed at showcasing the stories of South Florida veterans.
The Vet Lab was inspired by Basetrack Live, a multimedia performance based on photographs by journalists embedded in Iraq and Afghanistan that shares the experiences of combat veterans. The Vet Lab aims to bring to light the unique and individual stories of South Florida veterans with an artistic twist.
There are approximately 600 veterans enrolled at Kendall Campus, and more than 2,500 college-wide. The Vets’ Lab hopes to start off serving at least ten veterans.
“Each veteran’s story is unique,” said Anthony Torres, project coordinator for MDC Live Arts’s Vet Lab. “I believe insight into their experiences can help reduce stigmas associated with military service as well as create a dialogue of mutual respect and appreciation within our community.”
Torres served as a mental health specialist on active duty in the U.S. Army from 2002-2006. He was later promoted to Sergeant (E-5) while deployed to Abu Ghraib Prison, Iraq from 2004-2005. In 2006, he relocated to Miami Dade College after being honorably discharged from active duty.
As a veteran and former Miami Dade College student himself, Torres has witnessed the therapeutic effects that expressing oneself—he has a love for poetry— can bring.
“I noticed when I shared my poems with fellow veterans, many were surprisingly supportive and some even shared writings of their own,” Torres said. ”Writing our work brought us closer together through our shared experiences, while also providing insight to others whom may not have been through the same thing.”
Torres now hopes to bring this sense of community and alternative kind of aid to the MDC community. Funded by a $50,000 grant from the James L. Knight Foundation, MDC Live Art’s Vet Lab will serve as a long term writing workshop for veterans to share their work.
Torres is spearheading the project with MDC Live Arts Director, Kathryn Garcia and MDC’s College-Wide Director for Veterans and Military Services, Tony Colmenares.
“We were looking for someone who could help connect us with local veterans to get them involved and he’s been doing an outstanding job with that,” Garcia said. “Anthony takes this to a person to person level, speaking directly with vets to encourage them to participate in the Lab.”
The weekly workshops, led by Colmenares, began on Jan. 10 and will run through April 28. They will take place each Saturday at the Kendall Campus, Student Life (building 100) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Veterans interested in participating can contact: firstname.lastname@example.org