Step into the renovated veterans lounge at the student center on Tidewater Community College’s Virginia Beach Campus, and you’ll feel at home.

It’s a place to sink into the suede chairs in front of the 70-inch flat screen TV on the wall. Four computers, one handicapped-accessible, and a printer are ready for use. A conference table overlooks swans swimming in the pond outdoors; plenty of light reflects off the walls, painted a serene blue.

Center for Military and Veteran Education's Tiffanny Putman hangs a bow on the door of the new lounge

“This area is a home away from home,” said Katlynn Cray, vice president of TCC’s chapter of Student Veterans of America (SVA). “I’m ready for this to be open for our student veterans. They deserve it.”

The refurbished space in Room 105E, which opened on Dec. 3, is the result of the Veterans Center Initiative Grant program, a partnership between SVA and the Home Depot Foundation.

That program launched last year with the goal of helping a handful of colleges improve veteran-specific spaces on campus, to ease student veterans’ transition to university life and to improve recruitment and retention. Home Depot gift cards in the amount of $10,000 were awarded after a competitive application and review process. TCC was one of 50 colleges nationwide that received a grant.

Eric Gage, SVA program manager, said more than 1,300 schools applied for grants and credited TCC for its thorough application. “You don’t often see that quality of work and quality of drive at a two-year school,” he said.

Gage was in attendance at last week’s grand opening, as were TCC President Edna Baehre-Kolovani and Bruce Brunson, executive director of TCC’s Center for Military and Veterans Education.

Veronica Cianetti, SVA vice president Katlynn Cray and SVA program manager Eric Gage

Alum and Navy veteran Matt Keane, who earned his Associate of Applied Science in Interior Design at TCC, was instrumental in designing the multi-functional lounge, which has wireless Internet access and a kitchenette with a microwave, coffee maker and refrigerator.

Retired veteran and current TCC instructor Russell Green donated a flag for all to sign and said he would have loved this type of space when he attended college.

“I call it a place to decompress,” he said. “Having somewhere like this truly is a home away from home.”