Robertson’s route here

July 20, 2015

Student Kevin Robertson takes three buses and two-plus hours to get to JCCC, all because he feels at home

Four mornings a week, Kevin Robertson leaves his home in Kansas City’s Northland at 6 a.m. and walks four blocks to a bus stop.

He boards the bus and then transfers to another. And then another. The third bus delivers him to the front door of the Carlsen Center at Johnson County Community.

The travel time? About two and a half hours.

Robertson could be attending a community college closer to where he lives. But he says he is willing to spend more than two hours traveling one way because he believes JCCC is where he belongs.

“When I first walked into the Student Center, it felt like I had been there already. It was a feeling that just came over me. Like wow! This is where I am supposed to be. I didn’t get that at any other community college.”

Campus caught his attention

Growing up, Robertson suffered from dyslexia. Some students teased him about it.
“I was picked on a lot, called names and stuff,” Robertson said. “It was hard to like school with all of that going on.”

Robertson did not even consider college. He worked at a clothing store and a car rental business, but his main interest was photography. When someone from his church told him a couple years ago that JCCC had a good photography program, he got excited about it. He took a trip to campus.

What he saw surprised him. The campus was as clean and well kept as the brochures showed.

“That really stood out to me,” he said. “It means that people here take pride in the place.”

He also was surprised by the diversity. He had expected to see mostly white students but quickly realized that the campus reflected a melting pot of people from around the world. He filled out his application and began the process of getting financial aid.

Self-doubt returns

But then, fear sank in. Self-doubt returned. In grade school and high school, teachers had helped him out. That’s not going to happen in college, he told himself. And how would he pay for his classes? How would he even get to the college?

He went back to shooting weddings and birthday parties and working on a documentary that he is putting together about homelessness from the point of view of those who are living on the streets. But the idea of college tugged at him. He wanted more out of life.

“Your confidence level plays a big part in how you perform in life,” Robertson said.

“If you have low confidence, you have very low self-esteem and you perform on that level. I noticed that in myself so I had to change that. I told myself to find the good in me and embrace that. I thought about my photography. ‘You have a good eye,’ I told myself. ‘Embrace that. You’re a good listener and good at helping others. Embrace that.’ It allowed my confidence to grow from there.”

Attitude changes

Robertson began taking classes at JCCC in January 2015. He plans to major in public relations and pursue a four-year degree.

After being out of school for a number of years and with his learning disability and a tough schedule, school can be stressful at times, he said.

“But in the end,” he said, the effort “will all be worth it.”

His photography class with adjunct professor Craig Sands is great, he said, and he loves his class with journalism professor Gretchen Thum. He will be taking another class with her in fall 2015.

“Kevin has blossomed as a student at JCCC,” Thum said. “He has discovered that he possesses outstanding public relations skills and has seen that this type of work comes naturally to him. I know that nothing will stop Kevin from achieving his goals. We can expect great things from him in the future.

Robertson appreciates Thum’s confidence in his abilities.

“She has been a great encourager and supporter and friend. She just makes you want to learn.”

He recently was hired as a student ambassador, so he’ll be spending even more time at JCCC.