Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Student to tackle Board of Trustees position despite Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis

John Jessop
Edmonds Community College has announced that John Jessop is the first student representative on its Board of Trustees.

“This is truly historic for the college and something students have advocated for,” said Wayne Anthony, director of Edmonds CC’s Center for Student Engagement and Leadership.

The responsibilities of the student trustee — a voting member — are no different than any other trustee, with the exception that they recuse themselves from decisions concerning human resources. This would be, for example, decisions on tenure, negotiated bargaining agreements, and evaluation of the college president.

The practice of having a student trustee in Washington has been in place at four-year universities for a number of years. In early 2012, the state Legislature passed a bill to have the practice apply to the state’s 34 community and technical colleges. Bellevue College was the first to implement it, with Edmonds CC now the second.

The Edmonds CC Board of Trustees approved to add a sixth trustee in November 2012, and Gov. Jay Inslee appointed Jessop in July 2013. The position is for one year. Jessop, 49, is also administrative liaison for the college’s student government, the Associated Students of Edmonds Community College.

“My role of student trustee is to give a first-person accounting, or perspective, on the effects of policy implementation on students,” said Jessop, a Business Administration major who has a part-time job in the college’s Human Resources department and plans to transfer to either the University of Washington or Washington State University. “I am the voice of the entire student body."

Jessop’s dual roles in representing Edmonds CC students is even more impressive given that he was diagnosed about three years ago with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. “It’s only been in the last few years where I have been able to have conversations publicly without becoming physically ill,” he said. “I mean, I didn’t communicate until I was 6, and then had to learn behavior therapies.”

Jessop, who has a 3.92 GPA and has contributed stories to The Triton Review student newspaper, is a member of a student club where students with Asperger’s help each other navigate the college experience.

“Having Asperger’s and autism means I have added challenges, but since I’ve been transparent with my diagnosis, it also means I’ve had plenty of people say they are happy to help me,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the resources and accommodations that Edmonds Community College has made available to me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Jessop’s future plans include writing a book and opening a consulting company to advocate for better and more effective low-income and disability housing.

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