From the Cover

Creating a Home Away From Home

As the Veterans Resource Center Coordinator, Chrystal Beamon provides a wealth of support for the Academy’s veteran student community

By Nina Tabios

Walk into the Veterans Resource Center at the Academy of Art University’s 79 New Montgomery building and the first face to greet you belongs to one Chrystal Beamon. Her official title is Student Services, Veterans Resource Center Coordinator but to the veteran students, she’s known as Ms. C.

“Ms. C, that’s my name now,” laughed Beamon, who has been with the Academy for over two years. She started as a Student Services administrator before getting promoted to the coordinator position. “They said the vibe and energy I give them is like a mother even though some of them are my age too.”

It’s easy to see why the veteran students view Beamon as a mother figure. On top of her regular duties—which ranges from coordinating student registration and setting them up with an advisor to coordinating services with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Academy Resource Center—she takes extra care to make sure the VRC feels like home for anyone who stops by.

She stocks the room with donated coffee, tea, and snacks of all sorts from surrounding shops. Veterans’ art decorates the walls, and she heavily promotes any veteran-featured art show, like the Veterans Art Exhibit at the Cannery Galleries during Fleet Week, and encourages her colleagues to attend, just like any proud mom would.

“When I see them come in here, I feel like they are one of my sons or daughters,” Beamon said of the nearly 500 on-site and hybrid students she oversees.

Despite being the sole coordinator at the VRC, it is in her nature to continually look for ways to extend her reach. Born in southern California’s Riverside County and raised in East Oakland, Beamon grew up a pastor’s daughter. The family’s life centered around service in her father’s ministry where Beamon found her passion for music from an early age, performing at five years old.

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Beamon visiting with student veterans Christopher Davis and Calvin McHellon in the VRC. Photo by Bob Toy.

Her passion took her far, majoring in music at Alameda College before she was eventually recruited to take private vocal lessons at Capitol Records in Los Angeles. Her stint as a professional vocalist had her performing with groups in Las Vegas, singing jazz in wineries, she even recorded background vocals for the famous soul-funk band Sly and the Family Stone.

Along with music, the military was also a constant in Beamon’s family life. Her father and brother both served in the Army and witnessing the effects that war can have on men and women in uniform gave her insight into how to best help the veterans that come through her door.

“Serving is the best part of this job,” said Beamon, who is currently looking at how to assist online vets. “Being here for them. I listen, and I talk to them as much as I can, and I lead them and guide them on where to go. I want to make sure that they’re taken care of.”

Beamon’s commitment to helping veteran students build a community that supports and encourages them as they take on this new Academy chapter in their lives has made her a fixture among the Academy’s service men and women. Just like any mom, Beamon does it all and more. She still works in music on top of tending to the VRC, giving private lessons to high schoolers in the East Bay and directing choral groups, and she is also a worship leader for the Well Community Church in Livermore, plus taking care of her own family—and the Veterans Resource Center wouldn’t be the same without her.

“I helped start this from the ground up, they gave me the freedom to do what I need to do to help our veterans, this is a haven for them to get away from everybody, to relax and decompress,” Beamon said. “That’s what I try to make for them, a home away from home.”

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