Offering a helping hand on first steps

June 3, 2016

Counselor Dave Ellis reached out to high schools to help students enroll in college, even if it wasn’t JCCC

Raise your hand if you like filling out forms.

Odds are, you’re a high school senior unsure of where you want to go to college, or even if you want to go to college, you’re not going to raise your hand. Filling out forms can be exhausting and even a little bit frightening if you don’t feel like you know what you’re doing.

Select groups of students at Shawnee Mission West, Olathe North and Olathe East high schools got help from a Johnson County Community College counselor to overcome that first hurdle in the race to a college education.

Getting an early (or earlier) start

Dave Ellis, a counselor at JCCC for 27 years, wanted to use his sabbatical to combat the surge of “late and lost” students that made their way to his office in July and August, having put off the application process – or any preparation for college – until the last minute.

 “The ones who come in late are usually the most lost. ‘Late and lost’ seem to go together,” he said.

That’s when he decided he should meet students in high school months before those hurried, harried summer meetings in his office. His sabbatical would be the perfect time to see if the extra time helped students.

How he helped

Each high school administration decided who, when and where Ellis would meet. Yet all were students who thought they maybe wanted to go to college, and many would be the first person in their family to do so.

His goal was to help 36 to 40 students, meeting with them throughout the fall semester. He ended up serving 80 students who wanted his help.

And yes, Ellis represented JCCC when he visited, but he wasn’t a JCCC representative, there to sell students on “his” school. He came to help with a process where he was an insider, and so many outsiders feel too terrified to even start.

“Some (of the students) are going somewhere else, but some are coming to JCCC,” Ellis said. “I think we all try to find someone who cares, and then we can be successful.”

Gauging the results

Ellis said he’ll track “his” students to see if they start school – and stay in school – at better rates than those first-generation college students he helps much later on. You know, those ones who show up at his door in July and August?

If you need help with the application process at JCCC, contact admissions at 913-469-3803 or counseling at 913-469-3809.