While he may be officially retired from the military, Jonathan “J.D.” White continues to serve. Throughout his 20 years in the United State Marine Corps, serving others became second nature to him because of the strong sense of honor, courage and commitment the Marine Corps instilled in him.
Today, he takes pride in continuing to serve those who served through his role as the Veterans’ Resource Center coordinator at Southwestern College.
“I have a passion for serving those who have served,” White said. “Staying active in the community and doing things to help others gives me a feeling of satisfaction.”
For more than three years, a typical day for White has included overseeing the Veterans’ Resource Center, assisting student-veterans with one-on-one informal counseling, monitoring the veterans’ work study program and collaborating with other campus programs and departments to organize events.
It’s also not unusual to see White checking in with other departments on campus, always greeting other employees and students with a smile on his face and spreading his motivational attitude.
“The Veterans’ Resource Center is a hub for veteran and military-affiliated students to have access to resources, support and encouragement,” White said. “Students can get overwhelmed with all the information available to them and sometimes one of the most challenging things is showing students how to navigate through those resources. The Veterans’ Resource Center offers assistance for navigating through those and other challenges.”
The Veterans Resource Center opened its doors in spring 2014 and quickly became a home for many veterans on campus. Staffed entirely by veterans and student veterans, the Veterans Resource Center offers services to support veterans and veteran-affiliated students. This year, the Veterans Resource Center expanded and relocated to its new home in room 215. The expansion will increase the center’s services tailored to student veterans, including an upgraded computer lab, peer tutoring program, a textbook exchange program and veteran-specific workshops and orientations.
“The program has gone leaps and bounds from where it used to be,” White said. “It’s incredible to watch from when I started here as a student, and there wasn’t really a resource center for veterans, now with a fully operational center with a computer lab, unlimited resources, workshops, tutoring, counseling, access to a wide variety of services that are available to veterans and their families.”
Besides being a previous Southwestern College student himself, White’s military background gives him a unique and strong connection with student-veterans. He also believes that their military experience is what allows the Veterans’ Resource Center to work well with other departments on campus.
“When you serve in the military, you learn how to work with people from all backgrounds, upbringings and cultures,” White said. “We bring a good, solid foundation and understanding of the importance of teamwork without seeing roadblocks. In the military, you don’t see someone’s differences, we all work together regardless because we have a mission to carry out. We have a mindset of teamwork and unity.”
Attend any event on campus put on by the Veterans’ Resource Center and you’ll see exactly what White means. The veteran presence on campus brightens the college with annual campus programs such as the Sisters In Arms event, where female veterans are honored; the annual Veterans Day ceremony; on-campus food distributions; and volunteering with the Jag Kitchen. On top of campus events, they also volunteer in the community at events such as Deck the Halls, where they help decorate the Balboa Naval Hospital with holiday decorations, and Toys-For-Tots to distribute toys to less fortunate children in the local community.
White’s efforts, dedication and contributions to the veterans’ community around him have not gone unnoticed. In June, he was honored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez as the California 80th Assembly District’s “Veteran of the Year.”
“The award was a total surprise, I am truly honored by it,” he said. “It was a very special moment and I feel so appreciative.”
Like most who have served in the United States military, White understands the importance of remembering those who served our country, which he sees as a driving force for his work.
“When you sign up to serve in the military, you are basically writing a blank check to the United States of America,” says White. “Those in the military put their lives on the line, and some of them make the ultimate sacrifice. It’s important to realize what the small percentage of the population we are, and remember all the positive things we do for the community.”
The real pride of White’s work comes from seeing his students succeed. Much of the success of Southwestern College’s veteran programs is due to the hard work, passion and devotion from the student veterans themselves. Besides their hard work, many students are able to grow through the Veterans’ Resource Center.
“I love watching the change in students,” White said. “From when they first come into the Veterans’ Resource Center to when they are ready to graduate and move onto their next goals, they inspire on a daily basis.”