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November 8, 2022

Cavalier pivots from protecting our nation to protecting our planet

After four rewarding years in the U.S. Marines, Chris Sanders was looking for his next steps. He had gained valuable technical, strategic thinking and leadership skills as a Transmission Systems Operator. He had been responsible for all transmitted communication with platoons and convoys, as well as the secure setup and linkage to the internet.

Chris had also discovered a love of hiking and nature while serving in the military. He started noticing trash on his hikes, which led to his interest in environmentalism. Now JCCC is helping him turn that passion and military experience into an exciting career.

His new personal mission is to earn an associate degree in General Sciences. He plans to transfer to the University of Missouri-Kansas City and finish with a bachelor’s degree in Earth and Environmental Science.

Peer mentors pave the way

A military financial counselor told Chris about an internship with JCCC’s Veteran and Military Student Resource Center (VMSRC). He reached out to the office to learn more. Hiring was temporarily placed on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but just as he exited the military, campus reopened and he landed the job.

Chris’s transition from military to college and civilian life left him looking for a new community. Many of his coworkers in the VMSRC had faced similar challenges. They made his transition easier, giving him the comradery and support he needed.

“They knew exactly what I was going through and had answers to all my questions,” he said. “They also showed me all JCCC has to offer, like free tutoring, night classes, and even the ROSE (Reusable Office Supply Exchange) store.”

All student veterans at the College can benefit from the Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE) program, providing support to overcome challenges and connect them to campus resources.

Getting involved with JCCC sustainability

Chris soon became acclimated to his new surroundings. He also got involved in activities on campus that mattered to him—like sustainability efforts.

While working with an instructor on JCCC’s solar panel charging tables, Chris learned about another on-campus internship. The Center for Sustainability needed someone to build a solar panel trailer and fix the charging tables when they went down. Chris rose to the challenge.

“I’ve always had a passion for renewable energies, so taking the job was a no-brainer,” he said.

As an intern, Chris discovered how easily the sun’s energy can be used to our advantage. He learned about other renewable energy sources as well, like wind and steam power. He also helped with recycling and composting efforts. He’ll use that knowledge to reduce his own carbon footprint.

Learning goes abroad to Iceland

Sustainability took to the skies—on a faculty-led study abroad program to Iceland. The group would study the island country’s advancements in sustainability, and explore glaciers, waterfalls, thermal lagoons and more. Chris decided to apply.

“I didn’t know if I’d get to go, but I threw my hat in the ring and I got in!” he said. Taking that chance led to another experience of a lifetime.

Chris said the locals were friendly, the sights were amazing, and he gained so much knowledge. “We learned about renewable energies, what’s destroying our planet, and how we can preserve it,” he said.

He highly recommends JCCC’s Study Abroad programs and all they offer. He earned college credit, gained a new worldview and expanded his social circle. “The students I went with were amazing—and they all shared the same love I have for the environment,” Chris said.

Start here, go anywhere

If you’re a veteran with a passion, JCCC can help you turn it into a career. For support, contact the VMSRC at 913-469-8500, ext. 4981 or or stop by COM 305. One conversation could lead to an exciting new career path!