All posts by Jody Pennington

Let’s Talk?

This week’s prompt is causing me to pause a bit. I find myself re-adjusting in my seat because I am uncomfortable with my answer. I don’t know if it will be popular, but it will be honest.

My interaction with our Veteran students consists of assisting with class selections; verifying that the students’ enrollment information is submitted to the VA in a timely manner, and also continuing to monitor each and every student to make sure any changes to his or her enrollment is reported in a timely manner to the VA so the student can avoid incurring lots of unnecessary debt.

So – do I or does my Team speak to students about current events? My first answer would be ‘No’ and this is why. Most of our students are working in addition to attending school. Some of them are also dealing with high anxiety and/or PTSD so mental health is of the forefront and current events can sometimes trigger their anxiety to heighten. Our approach is keeping our students comfortable and serving them efficiently and effortlessly so they do not have added stress to the all ready heavy load they are carrying. We don’t avoid current event conversations, but we do not volunteer to talk about them either.

On the flipside, I can also say we do sometimes talk about certain issues or situations if the need arises. Now, if we have a world event involving any military action then absolutely the office is a buzz, and we are working hard to ensure the students who receive Orders to be deployed are given permission to withdraw from classes due to mitigating circumstances. The atmosphere becomes quite serious and a blanket of empathy is felt like a thick fog. I have witnessed a conversation in which a couple of soldiers were speaking of a current military situation and one of them had shared that he had just received Orders to go overseas. He was in office trying to get things taken care of. I heard the other soldier share that he was jealous because the one received Orders. Their comfort level is higher putting on their military uniform and defending our freedom rather than sitting in a classroom with their Converse tennis shoes. They did a handshake in a fashion that caused them to hit their shoulders and on they went. The one basically skipping out of here because he “gets to go defend.”

I do advocate for open communication with our students. But I am cautious of the topics being discussed and very mindful of differing opinions remaining open and respectful of the array of viewpoints from others.

As always, thank you for reading ~ Jody


Simple Fun

Sometimes, the simple things are more fun and meaningful than all the banquets in the world,” E.A. Bucchianeri.

Confession – I am not one who practices work/life balance very well. I am a home grown Midwest Girl with a strong work ethic. A work ethic that causes me to be the first one in to work and the last one out of work. I love to work, and I love the feeling that comes from putting forth a full day’s effort and investing into the lives of those I serve on a daily basis.

As I enter this middle-age phase of life and become more aware of my limitations, aka stamina, it is apparent to me how important having FUN helps me to replenish my empty cup (soul).

Fun comes packaged in many different ways for me. It can be a walk with my daughter; a hike with my husband; watching a movie with my son; talking on the phone with my Midwest peeps; watching the sunset; sitting by the pool; cooking a favorite meal; ordering take out; grabbing a cup of coffee while running an errand; or daydreaming about a trip.

The older I get the more I realize FUN for me = CONNECTION. It means sharing a special smile at the grocery store with a young mom who is dealing with a teary toddler; or an elderly person who needs help wrestling a grocery cart free from the string of other carts.

These simple connections also apply to our office atmosphere and our day-in-day-out activities assisting our Veteran students with their class selections or calling and speaking with a VA Representative in good ole Oklahoma. No matter what we are presented with, we can make a connection through a friendly smile or friendly banter. This too is fun.

Simple fun in our work place and interactions with others elevates morale and productivity. When we keep things simple, we are not allowing the confusion of words; thoughts; assumptions or attitudes to get mixed in.

Introducing fun in higher education feeds the fire that burns deep within our students. We can ignite the flame that is almost burned out by fanning the flame using a gentle answer (signifying a gentle breeze). This approach allows the fire to grow.

Ahhhh, yes, this simple act reminds me of a good bonfire in the darkest of nights. Nothing spells fun like a messy SMORE;-))

Thank you for stopping by and reading ~ Jody (aka Midwest – that’s what my office peeps call me).


It’s the Climb

                                                                “The Climb”

I am honored to be working in the Veterans Service Center at the Main campus of Glendale Community College.  I am a School Certifying Official and Student Services Specialist, which basically means that I have been trained to assist our Veteran Students getting enrolled in classes while utilizing VA Benefits.  We serve as a liaison between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the college.  I, too, am a Veteran and the one thing I remember most about leaving the military and getting back into civilian life is the transition time being painful.  It’s a private battle no one can relate to, unless you have served.

One day you are standing in formation waiting for your name to be announced to be given the Orders for your next duty station or Orders to return home.  You spend months marking off the days until you are deployed and honorably discharged.  You daydream about the feeling of not having to wake up at 0430 hours or running PT with a cadence ringing in your ears.  All of a sudden the day comes when you pack up your belongings in a duffle bag, slap the hands of your fellow comrades in the form of high fives, who are staying behind to finish out the assignment, execute an about face and board the plane to home or the next best place to home, only to find you feel more lost with no direction the minute you land.

The majority of students we come into contact with on a daily basis can concur these feelings.  Every step I’m taking, Every move I make feels Lost with no direction, My faith is shaking….  Miley Cyrus sings it best in her song, The Climb.  

The men and women who serve our Country are trained to do battle and many find themselves continuing to wage a war inside themselves as they enter the academic world, a world much different than the military world.  They are facing struggles and they are taking chances.  They get knocked down, but I encourage each and every one of them to hold their heads high and keep on trying, keep on fighting.  

I have even used the analogy of being a runner.  All of us former military folks have run many miles.  The first mile was and still remains the worst for me.  The same is also true about hiking.  The first few miles seem to be the most awkward and my breath often seems more labored.  When I meet with our students, I reassure them that, “It is okay to not be okay.”  It is okay to doubt.  I tell them, “The first few weeks your footing is going to feel awkward and you are going to be overwhelmed.  Just like the first mile of a good run – the first few weeks of a new semester can be the worst until you find your groove.  Enjoy the journey.”  

This bit of advice often brings a smile and a reply, “Thank you, I needed to hear this.”  It’s about the journey that gets us to where we are going.  And in this song by Miley Cyrus, it’s about the Climb.  She says it best, “Ain’t about how fast I get there, Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side, ‘It’s the Climb.’”

We all can relate to the mountains in our own lives.  None of us are exempt to mountains.  We just have to keep on moving, keep on climbing, and keep the faith.  Enjoy your Climb, Everyone.  Let’s help each other and our students to enjoy The Climb!