Congratulations to Jonathan “Jon Jon” McCurnin, a student at Pasco-Hernando State College - East Campus, selected as a Florida College System Activities Association Student Government Division Student of the Month for May. He was nominated by his advisor Mr. Ahmy Arca.
Here’s what Mr. Arca shared with us about Jon Jon: “At the age of three, it was discovered that Jon Jon was having seizures in the speech and language part of the brain. He lost the language that he had acquired and struggled communicating and regaining language. The language struggle and his resistance to form bonds and make connections with people started to make sense when he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. After spending some time in a mainstream kindergarten class, the elementary education team made the decision that it was in Jon Jon’s best interest to be placed in a self-contained, alternative, ESE classroom. Out of a concern that he wouldn’t receive the necessary curriculum to be successful later in his academic and life career, Jon Jon was enrolled in an all-inclusive charter school (Academy at the Farm). During his elementary years, he had a para-professional that shadowed him in his classrooms, teaching him organization and time-management skills.
He transferred to a mainstream classroom in the 7th grade (Pasco Middle School). This decision was to help Jon Jon make the transition for high school and also to participate in sports, namely football. Unbeknownst to us, his IEP and accommodations hadn’t made it to the middle school. So, when Jon Jon made honor roll during the first quarter, we held a meeting to see “how much help” he was getting. At this meeting, we learned they had Jon Jon on “consult” and that he had learned to put the skills that were taught to him in elementary school to practice on his own! This was also our first glimpse into Jon Jon’s strong work, personal, and moral ethics. He graduated from Pasco High School, lettering in three varsity sports – football, weightlifting, and track & field – was recognized as an Outstanding Senior by the Dade City Rotary, active in Boy Scouts, church youth group, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
He entered PHSC taking foundation, not-for-credit courses. While some see this as an obstacle, Jon Jon saw it as an opportunity to transition into college and learn how to function within the college environment. He learned that he could not receive the accommodations that he was accustomed to without having updated psychological testing. ASD is not something you outgrow, but rather develop strategies for success in your environment and that’s all he wanted. Jon Jon did go for the testing at an organization set up to help people with disabilities in education and the work force. Their findings were that with Jon Jon’s ASD and the accompanied anxiety in social, stressful environments, college was not a good choice for him. Some would have read this report and accepted that they had reached their limits – not Jon Jon. He followed up the report by asking them never to contact him again and that he was going to college and would graduate. Once again, JonJon has proven to himself and all that know him the power of setting goals and having the persistence and dedication to making them a reality.
Once the “transition” year was over, Jon Jon has taken care of his college life by once again putting the skills that he’s gained and practiced. He surrounded himself with supportive and inspiring mentors. Jon Jon immersed himself into the PHSC Student Life & Leadership community. Since then Jon Jon has gone on to become the president of the East Campus Health & Fitness club while serving as the student worker in the Fitness Center on campus, attended the Student Leadership Retreat last August, and has recently taken on the secretary position in the Student Government on East campus. Jon Jon has found his niche by giving back by being involved and passionate to help with activities that brought students, faculty, and staff together. Jon Jon still struggles in some social situations and maybe he always will, but he’s demonstrated that with the right mindset, heart, work-ethic, and support network (that he also supports), obstacles can become blessings, dreams become reality, and goals become accomplishments.”
Congratulations to this outstanding student, and our thanks to Mr. Arca for taking the time to nominate him for this recognition.