All-Kansas Award Winners

April 6, 2015

Two students recognized for their academic success almost never made it to college. JCCC made the difference.

A few years ago, Derek Boyd was working in a warehouse, out of high school and not really considering college.

Megan Gladbach was in high school, staring at the choice of what she wanted to do next and knowing she didn’t want the move-far-away university experience.

Both landed at Johnson County Community College, and both were recently named to the All-Kansas Academic Team. The honor recognizes the scholastic efforts of the best community college students in the state.

No more excuses

If it weren’t for his friends, Boyd might have missed the path to JCCC. Bored and strung out from his day job, he knew he wanted something different; he just didn’t know what.

Growing up in the small town of Circleville, Kansas, Boyd never saw college in his future. He couldn’t afford it, he didn’t fit in, and he was part of band working on its music – all seemingly good reasons to stay away from higher education.

But his friends called him out, telling him that Johnson County Community College was inexpensive. He could take a few classes at a time – pay as you go – and still continue working. They sold him on giving it a shot.

“I think one of the best ways to appreciate your education is to work at a terrible job for a while,” Boyd said.

He started with five credits and became interested in the theatre department, which led to a theatre department scholarship that allowed him to take more classes. Then he got involved in the honors program, and he earned an honors scholarship.

“I can’t believe I thought it was too expensive (to go to college); I’ve been making money getting an education,” he quipped.

No more fears

Megan Gladbach graduated from Bishop Miege High School, Roeland Park, in 2012.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” she said.

Her high school counselor pointed her to the President’s Scholarship at JCCC. When she learned she’d won the scholarship, which paid for full tuition, she knew JCCC was just the place to explore her career options.

College seemed intimidating as a concept, and JCCC seemed intimidating, too, just by its sheer size, Gladbach said. “But the people I have met here are awesome people. Once you realize that, it isn’t intimidating at all.”

Her botany class with Steven Giambrone, associate professor of science, led her pick environmental science as her life’s work.

“I discovered that I really like plants,” she said. “It got to the point where I was really excited to go to class.”

From there, she joined and gained leadership positions in the Student Sustainability Committee and the Student Environmental Alliance.

She also was recently named a 2015 Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team Silver Scholar, based on her scores in the All-USA Community College Academic Team. In addition to the scholarships received from the All-Kansas competition, she will receive a $1,250 scholarship from the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation.

Gladbach plans on transferring to a four-year school in Arizona to learn even more about agroecology.

How to rock – academically

Both students had similar answers on how to succeed in college. Boyd stressed talking directly with the instructor, and Gladbach emphasized social interactions within the classroom.

“I sit up front in class, so I’m more approachable to other people,” she said. “I’m not the type that just approaches people and starts a conversation, so I try to radiate an ‘approachable vibe.’ It doesn’t always work, but I try.”

Boyd broke the wall between teacher and student. “I talked to my teachers. I also used the resources the college offers – the Writing Center, the Math Resource Center … I can pretty much gauge what is expected from a teacher, and I don’t allow myself to fail.”