Skip to main content

December 2, 2018

Four weeks as a summer intern led to a job offer for this Web Development and Digital Media student, and he hasn't even graduated yet.

Jason Soltys has worked with his hands in a lot of different jobs. He tended lawns and gardens as a landscaper. He worked as a custodian in a school, preparing classrooms for the next day of learning. He harvested vegetables on an organic farm. He pulled products for shipment in an Amazon fulfillment facility.

He doesn’t shy away from getting his hands dirty. The unassuming, soft-spoken 36-year-old also has a knack for languages—programming languages, that is. Now his hands work on a keyboard, creating unique and functional websites for clients at his part-time job with Computer Impressions in Overland Park.

Owner Jesse Salmon created the position after Jason wowed him during a four-week internship in summer 2017. The job works around Jason’s JCCC schedule, allowing time for attending classes and studying. Once Jason finishes his studies next May and bags that Associate of Applied Science in Web Development and Digital Media, he’ll upgrade to full time.

Talking HTML

Jason discovered his talent for programming languages in the early 2000s. His sister had started a small business, and Jason took on the task of setting up her website, working on a basic fill-and-publish program provided by a hosting service. Soon he discovered he could make it more dynamic by playing around with the addition of web technologies such as CSS, JavaScript, PHP and MySQL.

“I’ve always liked jigsaw puzzles and solving problems, and web development is a lot like that,” he says. “I just figured out how the pieces fit together.” His design adaptations worked out, and he was able to personalize his sister's website to better suit what she needed.

Four years ago, Jason moved from Syracuse, New York, to Overland Park to be closer to his family. Having been home-schooled, he didn’t have a transferable high school diploma. He was 32 years old and thinking about what he wanted to do in life.

The first step was to complete the GED® exam, so he sought out Johnson County Adult Education (JCAE).

JCCC and JCAE work with Accelerating Opportunity: Kansas (AO-K) to offer financial and counseling support to help nontraditional students build the postsecondary education and skills needed to compete successfully in the workforce. Jason was the ideal candidate.

While chatting with a JCAE counselor, Jason mentioned that he liked computers. The counselor recommended he check out the newly launched Web Development and Digital Media program at Johnson County Community College.

That’s when Jason found more people who spoke his language.

Designing the future

Programming languages have come a long way since Jason set his hands to coding, but he quickly adapted to such newer languages as Python and LotusScript. It didn’t take long before his instructor, Professor James Hopper, noticed his talent.

“Web development is such a natural fit for Jason,” Hopper says. “Jason understands the language and syntax. Almost immediately he established himself as an exceptional student.”

The two developed a mentor-mentee relationship, with Jason stopping by Hopper’s office to chat about programming, the future and life. Hopper had started working with KansasWorks and the Johnson County Workforce Center to connect qualified students with paying job opportunities and internships. He submitted four names, including Jason’s.

The counselor at Workforce cautioned it could take a few weeks before a good match was found. The day after Jason submitted his application, Salmon was on the phone to recruit him. Before the first week of the internship was over, Salmon knew Jason was his man.

A natural leader

Jason has come into his own these last four years. The shy young man who admits he is more comfortable in the shadows has become a confident voice in the classroom.

“Jason has blossomed, and I look to him as a class leader,” Hopper says. “I can ask him to help another student and I know he gives them the right answers and direction.”

This leadership includes an idea the two discussed just weeks ago about using a team messaging app, Slack, to connect program graduates and current students. They could discuss web development and industry trends, post questions and answers, and build their networks.

“I am extremely grateful that I ended up at Johnson County Community College,” Jason says. “I’ve received help from Professor Hopper and the others with expanding my knowledge while also stepping out of my comfort zone when it comes to socializing with other people.”

With graduation ahead, Jason is already thinking up ways to help fellow and future students benefit from the guidance and opportunities he has had. He has some solid advice for students who may also be wondering about the future and where it might lead.

“I would tell them not to pass up the opportunity presented to them,” he says, “especially if the opportunity is related to something they enjoy that would help open doors to better their life.”

Your tomorrow starts here

Learn more about Accelerating Opportunity: Kansas and its pathways for healthcare, web development and construction management. Need a diploma? Register for the GED® Test.