San Jac Certified: An inspiring impact
06.22.2017 | By Madelon Zimmermann
HOUSTON, Texas – Melanie Neill graduated from San Jacinto College as the first person in her family to earn a college degree. She now works at San Jac as the veteran services coordinator. “I fell in love with the veteran population. It was important for me to try to understand what they were going through and be a resource for them in whatever way I could,” said Neill.
Neill was raised in Channelview, Texas. A local to the area, she spent an enormous amount of time on the San Jacinto College campus. “My mom would go to the cosmetology school to have her hair done. It’s almost like I grew up on this campus,” she said. After attending a high school that didn’t focus on college preparatory and after repeatedly being told she could never earn a college degree, she decided that was exactly what she wanted to do. Determined to prove those individuals wrong and wanting to make something more for herself, she started taking classes at San Jac.
Neill was working multiple part time jobs and therefore could only take one or two college classes at a time. She refused to take more classes than what she could pay for in cash. “I was a typical non-traditional student,” stated Neill. She graduated from San Jac with an associate degree in applied sciences and started working in the bookstore on campus. She was intent on working at the College, applying multiple times before she was hired. She was soon offered a position as an administrative assistant in the financial aid office. Not long after, she took a position as a bookkeeper.
Neill decided that she wanted to return to college once again to earn her bachelor’s degree in behavioral studies from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Again, she took one and two classes at a time, while also working and taking care of her sick parents. “I wanted to get that degree in behavioral studies to try to understand people and why we think and behave the way that we do,” said Neill. Adding that it was difficult to spend that time at school instead of taking care of her parents, but it was a sacrifice she knew she had to make.
Upon her graduation, Neill returned to San Jac and worked in the testing office. She then moved to her position in the veteran services office as the veteran services coordinator, where she has remained. “I love working with these veterans because they are the most incredible people I have ever crossed paths with. It is such a diverse group, with all kinds of different personalities, but they are all extremely inspiring. Whatever troubles you think you’ve had, you talk to a vet and you’ll realize your problems are minimal. They’ve made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Neill.
Neill would one day like to go back to school and earn a degree in social work or mental health to be able to further understand and help those around her. She feels lucky to work at a place like San Jacinto College that allows her to pass to someone else those words and ideas that she has learned through her own experiences.
“I enjoy my job and it’s not hard to go to work knowing that the job you do has such a large effect on those around you,” Neill said. “I love getting to make an impact on students and at the College every day, but in the same sense this college has changed my life and made the greatest impact on me.”
For more information on veteran student services at San Jacinto College, visit the San Jacinto College veterans student website.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, since 1961. As a fiscally sound institution, the College currently holds bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, respectively. San Jacinto College is a 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Rising Star Award recipient and an Achieving the Dream Leader College. Approximately 30,000 students each semester benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success. The College offers seven areas of study that prepare a diverse body of students to transfer to a four-year college or university or enter the workforce with the skills needed to support the growing industries along the Texas Gulf Coast. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.