Finding a Purpose Helping Veterans

Just 10 days after graduating from high school, Albert “Bert” Jimenez was in a grueling U.S. Marines boot camp in San Diego. Three weeks after that, he found himself in Iraq at the age of 18.

Four years later and two deployments to Iraq, Bert left the Marines with a heavy toll. PTSD and the trauma of seeing close friends die in a war zone impacted his mental and physical health. He didn’t know how to pick up his life after the Marines and turned to heavy drinking.

While all the mental demons are not totally gone, Bert has found a new life through exercise, attending Northwest Vista College, and slowly dropping about 115 pounds. This past fall, Bert completed the Boston Marathon with a group of other veterans and is also on course to earn his associate degree from NVC after this summer.

He said Vista was his first shot at college and he wasn’t sure if he could handle it.

“For me, it’s still kind of scary because I don’t do too well with crowds, but college has helped me to be a better person and get me out of my comfort zone,” Bert said.

Now, he wants to help other veterans through psychology. He has been accepted to UTSA this fall and he hopes to get a bachelor’s and master’s degree to work in a clinical setting to counsel veterans.

He says often times it’s hard to relate to psychologists or counselors because while they may be book smart, they don’t have that experience of watching a friend die in a foreign country or the aftermath that veterans face after being deployed multiple times. He believes he can bring that missing element to help counsel veterans.

In fact, Bert is getting his psychology field experience now through the San Antonio chapter of 22 Until None, which has the mission of ending suicide among veterans. The group’s website says 8,030 veterans commit suicide a year; and after military service, the chances of veterans committing suicide goes up 200 percent. Even worse, 1 in 5 suicide deaths are veterans, according to the site.

Bert says it’s not uncommon for him to get phone calls from veterans daily or even at 3 am because a former soldier needs help in order to make it to the next day.

Along with 22 Until None, Bert is also a fitness coach with Rise Above Hardship, which is a local nonprofit started by fellow NVC student Jose Luis Sanchez. R.A.H’s mission is to help veterans and the community through fitness. Bert can be found motivating others to do squats, run or do pushups Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at local parks around the city. Many of the people who go to R.A.H. classes are veterans with missing limbs, wives of veterans or just regular community members who need a coach’s motivation to push through a tough workout.

In the meantime while Bert is finishing up classes at NVC, he will be training to do his first triathlon in San Marcos this summer and will head to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Marine Corps Marathon in October.

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From Tragedy to Scholarship Winner

NVC student Steffyn Nowak was relentless in reaching her dream despite life dealt her one too many blows.

At the age of 15, she was raped and had a baby from the assault. Right before she was set to testify against her assailant, his family kidnapped her and took her to Mexico and Guatemala for six months. When she came back to the states, she soon dropped out of high school and lived in her car for several months.

Several years go by and she’s happily married with two kids. In spite of all this tragedy, she always wanted to go to college and be a doctor, but she thought her dream was over because she was a full-time mom to two young kids. Her mother took care of her older daughter.

“I started working at Dairy Queen and became a manager and was making some good money,” she said. “One day, a young girl with scrubs comes in and I was at the front counter taking orders. I remember all these emotions just started coming to me that I was meant to do something more. I went to the bathroom and cried.”

With her GED in hand, Steffyn was ready to take on college for the second time. She had enrolled in Del Mar College in Corpus Christi but couldn’t continue after two semesters because her family moved to San Antonio. She received another setback once she got to Northwest Vista College. After examining her GED, the admissions staff told her that her GED was fake. Apparently a company was scamming people out of money for a GED in return.

Steffyn was devastated!

But she didn’t give up. She returned to Vista a month later with another GED – this time it was legitimate, and she was able to enroll. Even with a GED, she was able to test high enough into a college algebra course, which is something most student don’t do even with a high school diploma. Steffyn said she always loved math and had taught herself calculus and biology by watching YouTube videos.

Steffyn credits many of her instructors at NVC for helping her along the way, as well as her advisor, Kristal, who helped guide her through college. She also had her family and children as a motivating factor. Steffyn wanted to make her father proud of her even though he passed away when she was 7 years old, and her brother tragically died in a motorcycle accident last year at the age of 34.

Fast forward to 2018, Steffyn will be earning her associate degree and walk across the stage on May 14. Along with accomplishing her goal, she received another surprise – a $48,000 scholarship to the University of the Incarnate Word. She plans to go pre-med and be an emergency room surgeon.

“I cried when I found out about the (UIW) scholarship,” she added. “My family and friends tell me I was determined to reach my goals. There’s always a way.”

Failures and Successes

As I get closer to the completion of my final semester for my associate degree, I have experienced a few downfalls that I see as failures. But I have also seen successes.

I was extremely disappointed that two of my classes didn’t pan out to be what I expected. I had to make the difficult decision to withdraw from these two classes and drop down to part-time hours. Many might not make a big deal, but for me, I saw it as failure. I was disappointed in myself for not pushing to finish and being satisfied with “just getting by.”  It has taken a lot for me to swallow those two failures, despite the encouragement from friends and family.

Looking on the brighter side, I have been happy and proud to say that I was also recognized in the Awards Ceremony for having a 4.0 grade point average, as well as being inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. I have gained experienced in writing for The Pulse, which is Palo Alto College’s newspaper; and I have written several published blog posts for Northwest Vista College.

These accomplishments have made me realize that along with failure comes success. Sometimes you can’t have one without the other. I have been able to look at the positives in this college experience and not be down about the negatives. I can now look at my life and see that I have come a long way. This 44-year old wife and mother has come back to school after a long break, works a job and has church involvement, all while going to school full time. I think I’ve done well, and I am proud to know that on May 19, I will joyfully walk the stage to receive my associate degree. This will be a huge stepping stone to finishing my bachelor’s degree and pursuing my career in Communications

By NVC Student Monica Lopez

Dropping a Course to Balance School and Life

Online Summer Classes BannerI feel like I have been challenged this semester in balancing life and school, or really just balancing my classes in general.

I didn’t have too much of an issue at the beginning of the semester until I started a very advanced flex class. It was a Interactive Web Elements course where we were learning how to make WordPress templates from scratch.

I learned it was the straw that broke the camel’s back–like when you have a tower of cards, and everything is okay and nice until you put on that one card that makes the tower crumble. Maybe I’m being too dramatic – just a little.

But this class was very hard, and required a lot of my attention. Inevitably, I had to drop it this semester. I do feel a load off my shoulders…even if I do get a W and I felt bad about dropping my first class.

Dropping a class has also been a learning experience–I now know what I can and cannot handle. I would definitely love to take this class when I have more time to focus on it since it will be helpful for my career. Here are a couple things to remember, if you ever decide you want to take a flex course:

1. What kind of course is it? Is it advanced?
2. With your current classes, can you add on a fast-paced class?
3. Do you have the skillset to take this class or would it be best to wait until later?

Here’s to continuing to balance everything in my life, including my classes!

By NVC Student Sarah Hegstrom

College Life

Balancing Everything

Part of the challenges of college is that you are now an adult with more responsibilities. Many college students have to hold a job while going to school in order to pay for school and other bills.

I had to figure out a way to balance school with working, family, heavy involvement at church, and any other thing that comes up. I’m a married woman with four teenagers at home, and I definitely play the full-time role of a mother in every way. I do most of the cooking and cleaning inside of the home.

Going back to school has made my family more aware of the role that I have played all these years. They have now had to step up and start helping more. It’s also made me realize that I had to teach my kids to have more responsibility and not do everything for them, especially at their age.

I have had to make difficult sacrifices. I have had to miss out on some big things, such as a weekend road trip to one of our favorite spots and then a week-long trip to Florida last summer. They both landed during a time when I had finals during my summer session. I hated missing out, but I had to prioritize.

One of the things that helps me to organize my schedule is keeping a planner. I write all of my assignments and due dates as soon as I have my syllabus for each class. This helps me plan around things throughout the semester. I love how Canvas is laid out as well. It gives a “To Do” list and a calendar to see what’s coming up.

Being an older student has given me more focus and determination to finish than when I was younger. I took the privilege of a college education for granted, which I now see as a priceless gift.

By NVC Student Monica Lopez

NVC Men’s Soccer Team DOMINATE

For the second time in two years, the NVC men’s soccer team went undefeated! The team finished with 5 Wins 1 Draw and 0 Losses.

Here are the results:

NVC 4- Trinity 3
NVC 1- St. Edward’s 1
NVC 3- UTSA 0
NVC 5- UIW 0
NVC 5- TAMU-SA 0
NVC 8- PAC 2

The team outscored opponents by 20 goals! (Very impressive!)

Hector Sandoval, Captain of the team, was voted MVP for the second time. He will be transferring to UTSA in the fall.

Coach David Galindo said he’s very proud of the team, and they will reconvene in mid-August for preseason camp and tryouts that will take place during the first week of school. You can follow the team on their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/nvcsoccer/ or their Instagram account at NVCSoccer.

Go Wildcats!

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NVC Psychology Club Receives National Recognition for Event

Mental Health HeaderLike most students, I wanted to be a part of something on campus and I finally decided to join the NVC Psi Beta chapter. Integrating yourself into a club for the first time is hard, but this was worth it; I walked into a tight-knit group who invited me in!

For months before, some key club members, advisors, officers and club vets alike, had worked to put all the pieces together to get the Mini Mental Health Summit (see national award at bottom) up and running. It was amazing to see the well-oiled machine they had scheduled. On the day of the event, there was a photobooth with a cutout filter, artwork done by students, an inkblot station to tell us how it made you feel, a variety of local agencies all dealing with mental health and wellness, a panel of speakers, videos, and food!

Still a newbie in the club, I stayed close to the few I knew by the photo booth, took pictures and saw some of the artwork we collected, with our members playing music and singing across the hall. It was there I saw representatives from Clarity Child Guidance Center, and got to chat them up about future opportunities. I even painted an inkblot that students could respond to – it seemed to make people feel happy or hungry! The panel though, was my favorite part. Hearing from our counselor, from some of the agency representatives and our own students tell their stories and offer wisdom was insurmountably inspiring. I began to see some of these quasi-strangers differently and I wasn’t shy anymore.

Our mini mental health summit was a defining moment for NVC, Psi Beta, and myself. It was MY first big event that I worked with the clubs, and showed me what we could do! The officers that put it together showed me what we were capable of; this club and our amazing advisors helped to introduce me to one of the communities where I fit best and has astronomically improved my college experience.

The panel we held supplied to the conversation we were having around mental health and contributed to creating a safe space on campus. It allowed students and teachers to see that we weren’t afraid to have the conversation in the first place! The summit was a trend setting, award-winning event that was put together with the goal of simply educating; it was a selfless act that has driven me to want to give back and provide the same opportunity for our club and our school and our community. It’s success has made me determined to gather the troops and hold an event to inspire and teach people here, too. Holding such an event on campus so shamelessly added a brick to the pavement on the trek to breaking the mental health stigma.

I have had some amazing professors here at Northwest Vista, and they have aided in my growth, as well as this organization. To have a community this open minded surrounding you, we grow close and have meaningful friendships because of it. We help each other and accept each other because of it, too. We were able to open up our community to the whole campus during the summit, and by making the discussion of mental health visible and accessible, we shed light on the topic. I believe that there are students out there who made strides to talk to someone about their feelings, and we made people unashamed to ask for help. That is why we need events like this: so people don’t feel so alone. We stay silent out of fear of being rejected and ostracized, but when people get up on stage and draw attention to their survival and their strength it shows the rest of us what is possible.

By NVC Student Diane Goguen

Note: 
Psi Beta National Honor Society awarded the NVC chapter the 2016-17 Community Service Award for its Mental Health Summit last November at NVC. Read News Release Community Service Award 16-17.doc.

Mental Health Header

A Lesson in Patience

I was never sure on what I wanted to major in when I got to college. I had an interest in many fields of study and I thought that if I could just set my mind to one thing I would finally find my place in the world. I thought that once I got to college that somehow, someway, my major would just fall into my lap and all would be well.

Maybe some well-meaning teacher would see me as a diamond in the rough and take me under their wing or I would stumble upon a skill I never knew I had. Then I fall in love with a field that would give me both financial security and a permission to live a creative life. As you can probably tell, I wanted my college career to be a skillfully written and a heartwarming coming of age story. It wasn’t long until I found out how unrealistic that mindset was.

The truth is that sometimes you aren’t immediately sure of who or what you want to be. Most of the time there is no personal mentor to help you or even a magical twist of fate that is going to tell you your true passion in life. I’m writing this to tell you, whoever you are, that it’s okay not to have it figured out. It’s okay to be stuck in the middle. I was always filled with shame and embarrassment because it seemed as if everyone had an idea of what they wanted out of their education and I felt clueless. It wasn’t until my second year that I realized that I wanted to go into graphic design.

There was no lightbulb moment, no poetic clarity – I just took the time to look at what was available to me, layout my interests, and analyze my strengths and weaknesses. While I did my core classes I read about fields that interested me on web articles, in books, and in hobbies I decided to pick up. I learned about who I was and what I loved to do. Now, you don’t need to do the same thing I did to figure out what it is you want to do for the rest of your life. You don’t even need to have the rest of your life figured out. I surely don’t. The point is that you must be patient and kind to yourself, because if you were to take the time to ask those who seem to have their lives together, you’d find out that there was no moment for them either. Some of them have even changed their major multiple times.

You don’t need to be ashamed for not knowing. Life is big and scary enough as it is, but the one thing you have control of is yourself. Know yourself. Be kind to yourself. Be patient. We all have a path and all our paths start at different times. You’ll get there, I know you will.

By NVC Student Kimberly Ferguson

 

 

Why NVC Wants You to Complete a Degree?

NVC President Dr. Ric Baser

You may have heard Northwest Vista College faculty and staff members say that earning your associate degree before transferring to a university gives you confidence and motivation to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Completing your associate degree also ensures the acceptance of your general education or “core” courses. In addition, getting a degree from NVC will increase your earnings while pursuing a bachelor’s degreeIf you are enrolled in one of NVC’s outstanding Associate of Applied Science programs, completion of the degree increases your employability and opportunities for promotion.   

NVC faculty and staff understand and care about your success and they want you to transfer successfully. We also know that the costs of attending a university are much higher than attending a community college like NVC.

We know that if you complete your degree at NVC prior to transferring, you will receive an exceptional education that will save money. These are just some of the reasons why you should get an associate degree from NVC, which is the No. 1 ranked community college in Texas.

NVC faculty and staff wish for you to stay at NVC long enough to earn your degree, which usually means a minimum of 60 credit hours. If you have 60 credit-level hours or more, I urge you to speak with your academic advisor today or in the next few days. Set up an appointment with your academic advisor.  The deadline for summer degree completion is Thursday, June 29. 

Remember that the awarding of degrees is not automatic. You have to apply with your advisor who will evaluate your transcript and degree plan.

To find out who your advisor is:

  • Go to ACES
  • Click on “My Page”
  • Your advisor’s picture and contact info will be there

To find out how many hours you have completed at NVC:

  • Go to ACES
  • Click on “My Page”
  • Click on “Unofficial Transcript” to get completed hours
NVC President Dr. Ric Baser Congratulates Recent NVC Graduate

NVC Male Students Learn About Discipline Thoughts

On May 6, nine Northwest Vista College students attended the 7th Annual Empowering Males to Build Opportunities for Developing Independence (EMBODI) conference at St. Philip’s College. The theme was: Disciplined Men with Disciplined Thoughts Taking Disciplined Actions.

The nine students who attended the conference came from NVC’s initiative to empower young men, called MSI for Male Success Initiative. The group has 28 members and started with only 10 at the beginning of the spring semester. NVC’s Daniel Johnson is the advisor of the group.

All of the nine attendees summited a scholarship essay and completed a minimum of six hours leadership training. Each of them received a $200 scholarship.

Daniel says, “Our guys stood out at the conference in several ways. Initially, by the way they looked. All of the guys, except two, were wearing MSI Polos and received several compliments from conference sponsors; and during the break-out sessions, our students asked and answered questions and participated in the discussions through-out the sessions.”

Norberto “Norbe” Salazar, who’s back at NVC working on an associate degree in Personal Fitness, said it was worth his Saturday to go to the conference.

“It was very informative from learning about leadership skills to being disciplined in order to get stuff done,” Norbe said. “I always thought of the word discipline as punishment, but the conference opened my eyes to see it differently.”

The attendees were:

  • Robert Medellin
  • Camron Bowman
  • Christopher Jones
  • Gustavo Salinas-Pinal
  • Jeffrey Long
  • Norberto Salazar
  • Troy Martinez
  • Alejandro Mendez
  • Robert Shaw

 

NVC Men