Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Graphic design student a portrait of perseverance

Grossmont College student Jake McDermott
Jake McDermott isn’t letting the challenges of his past keep him from realizing the promise of his future. The former foster youth who has overcome learning disabilities and ADHD is thriving at Grossmont College, where he is a member of the campus Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, volunteers extensively, is on track to transfer to San Diego State University and is looking forward to a career as a graphic designer and photo editor.

“There are a lot of support services at Grossmont, and the counselors and staff at the college are really supportive, helpful, and caring, which is why I am doing so well,” McDermott said. “It’s just a good place to get a good education.”

McDermott’s efforts have been rewarded with several Osher scholarships from the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges, and he also helps support himself through a work-study program that has him using his skills as a graphic artist at The Common Ground, the Grossmont College student engagement, cross-cultural space.

“Jake's perseverance has been amazing,” said Brian Woolsey, a counselor and coordinator with EOPS/NextUp Foster Youth Services. “Every time we meet, he's focused on classes and grades and overcoming challenges. Because he approaches college like that, he's successful.”

Born and raised in San Diego, McDermott was taken from his mother and placed in foster care while in middle school, and he remained in foster care until his father gained custody of him two years later. Meanwhile, he struggled with ADHD and other learning disabilities. When he was in high school, his father, who took custody of McDermott just two years earlier, passed away.

“It was a very stressful time in my life, but I focused on moving forward, focused on school, and focused on my studies.”

McDermott, now 21, graduated from El Capitan High School with honors in the spring of 2016 and enrolled at Grossmont College. He lives with his grandmother just down the street from campus.

“Grossmont was a few blocks away and it was easy to get to,” McDermott said. “I took a tour of the college and going here just made sense.”

McDermott is one of the more than 23,000 former foster youth enrolled in the California Community Colleges system, according to a 2017 report that highlights the unique challenges these students face and cites the need for additional support. At Grossmont, much of that additional support comes from EOPS, an acronym for Extended Opportunity Programs and Services, and Guardian Scholars & Foster Youth Services. The latter provides personal counseling, connection with academic advisors to help define a major and educational objective, potential on-campus employment and more.

Meanwhile, McDermott has kept himself busy with Beta Theta Chi, the Grossmont chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, and the Networking and Leadership Club. He also volunteers at Gizmo’s Kitchen, the food pantry for students dealing with hunger and not knowing where their next meal might come from.

“There are so many services and opportunities here,” McDermott said. “I would recommend Grossmont College to anyone.”

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