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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Online IT program student turned struggle into strength

July 14, 2016
Jonathan turned childhood trauma into an inner force to succeed for his family.

Jonathan Perry never had a role model to show him how to handle stress or set goals for himself. He had to figure all that out on his own. “It was the lack of that person to emulate that pushed me,” he says.

As a young boy of seven, he and his mom, brother and grandmother were homeless, sleeping in shelters and parking lots inside their van, and, when they were lucky, with church friends. “We moved into a church and, after services, would push the padded church pews together for make-shift beds and wash in the bathroom,” says Jonathan.

He made it to school when he could, and there was a new one too often. “I was always the new kid and had to make friends quick because we would be off to somewhere else.”

Amazingly, Jonathan was often on the Honor Roll, collected achievement awards and was in GATE programs. His grades didn’t suffer as much as his lack of interaction with peers. “I got a little behind in school, but for the most part it hurt me socially,” he says. “Social skills are extremely important.”

It wasn’t until he was an adult that Jonathan came to realize that they were homeless during those years because his mom was addicted to drugs. His dad was in and out of their lives, until Jonathan was 10 years old, for the same reason. “I’ve seen things that kids shouldn’t have to see. My grandmother was an evangelist and prayed for us all the time.”

Those three years of floating and uncertainty left an indelible mark on Jonathan that would drive him in a different direction. He found that strength can come from extreme adversity.

For these last 10 years, Jonathan has done well as a manager in a retail super market chain. He and his wife Anna have children Naomi (3) and Clyde (2), and a busy life as a young family. But something has been missing for Jonathan in his work.

“There was no room for growth where I was, and I knew it was time for a change,” he says. “You can work hard in the wrong environment and it won’t produce anything. But if you work hard in the right environment, the sky’s the limit.”

Jonathan decided to shoot for the sky when he enrolled in SJVC’s Online Information Technology certificate program last November.

He had been fascinated with computers since he was 13 years old and got his first PC. “I would always tinker with my computer and try to figure out the Windows system on my own,” he says. “I don’t know how I was so oblivious to choosing that (as a career), when it was right there in front of me.”

He found himself chin-deep in a work-education-family routine that could have brought him down instead of skyward. “I threw myself into the deep end,” Jonathan admits.

Six days a week, he worked from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., fed and took care of the kids – Anna worked nights – while he participated in and met his Online IT program requirements. He slept 3-4 hours a night and found a new appreciation for caffeine. “Coffee was at the top of my shopping list,” he laughs.

“You have to embrace the struggle, the hardship,” says Jonathan. “I don’t like struggle, but I’m not going to dodge it. I’m going to take it head on and work with it.”

And maybe Jonathan needed something to consume him just then. Both his mom and his grandmother passed away the year before, and he was lost in his grief. School could be the escape he needed.

“Going to school, placing myself in that strict regime gave me focus,” he says. From the first moment, he knew this was the right move. “I loved it. I felt sharper, wittier; I felt like I was on top of everything. The learning process is very satisfying to me.”

Jonathan excelled in his IT program. “Jonathan successfully passed three very rigorous Information Technology industry certifications: CompTIA A+, Network+ and Security+,” says Robert Vasile, instructor. “He is a hard-working, dedicated student who is always ready to share his knowledge and expertise with others.” Jonathan was on the Dean’s List throughout his IT program.

Jonathan worked hard because he wanted to put a lot of distance between the life he experienced as a child and the one he and Anna would give Naomi and Clyde. “I don’t want my kids to ever go through anything like that, so that put some fire under my butt,” says Jonathan.

Jonathan recently completed the IT program and finally has a little time to reflect on these last months.

“This has changed everything for me. People respect me a lot more now,” he says.

Jonathan is very philosophical about what it took to get to this point. “Everybody is like a lump of coal; give it enough pressure, it turns into a diamond. I don’t want to be a lump of coal all my life…and school was my pressure. There was a war within me, and this struggle brought out the best in me.”

The next step is landing a position in his chosen field. “I have the credentials, the certifications and status on the Dean’s List, but right now I have zero experience, so any would be good,” says Jonathan.

He also has a desire to take his education even higher with SJVC’s IT Security training.

If there is a limit to what Jonathan can do, he is not likely to ever find it.

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