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January 2022 Featured Campus: Johnson County Community College

Image of Johnson County Community College PAVE Team

Johnson County Community College is this month’s Featured Campus! “We chose JCCC because they hit the ground running with the new academic year. They have been doing a great job of offering events and performing outreach over the last semester, including several events for Veteran’s Week that were well-attended. We love to see a campus that has been around a while maintain energy and motivation, especially through the challenges of the last two years,” says PAVE Program Coordinator Riva Szostkowski.

Team Leaders Gerardo Ruiz and LaQuaysha Rockette work together with Veteran Services Coordinators Kena Zumalt and Sarah Weygand and seven Peer Advisors to run PAVE at JCCC.

Like all PAVE schools, the JCCC team has had to figure out how to adapt the program at a time when in-person support and programming is still limited. One way they make sure student vets are still getting information and connection to resources is by building and maintaining a student veteran-specific page on Canvas, their school’s learning management system, which all of the 470 military and veteran affiliated students are sent an invitation to access.

But in-person support is still crucial, as Peer Advisor Dusty Cody explains: “That face to face makes all the difference — that engagement, to have the people come in here and engage.” On the experience of providing peer support, Peer Advisor Tanner Brown says, “I think it’s all connection based, and you’re going to get out what you put in.”

Remembering her time as a student veteran at a different community college, Sarah says, “I wish I had had the PAVE program, it would have been really helpful.” Peer Advisor Yassin Ali describes the magic of in-person interactions: “Someone comes in, they’re stressed out, they have no idea how they’re going to sign up for classes, and it’s intimidating. But within the time we interact with them, you can see that their load has been lightened.”

“Building that network, building a friendship — that can go on for longer than just the time you’re in school,” says Gerardo. Building connections also helps retention rates, and Kena says that over the time that JCC has participated in PAVE, retention rates have increased for the students who participate in the program, even during the pandemic.

We are so heartened to see how well JCCC has tailored and adapted the program over the years to best support their community. Thank you for your continued excellence, JCCC PAVE!