INA – Jon McCoy’s involvement in the Cooperative Education and Employment program at Rend Lake College has put him in a unique position at his old high school.
McCoy works in the Information Technology department at Benton Consolidated High School. The faculty, staff and administration that once fostered his path from orientation to graduation less than a couple of years ago are now the people who rely on him to solve their problems. And he is their former student who is now their intern techie.
McCoy has been named the December Co-Op Student of the Month at RLC. Through that program, he is earning college credit and money while working at his old school and learning at RLC.
McCoy, 19, of Benton, is involved in systems administration, maintenance and hardware and software installation at Benton High. He calls it “grunt” work.
“I kind of do it all,” he said. “It has its moments where it’s enjoyable. The hardest adjustment, which has been a huge learning experience, is dealing with people – especially those who don’t have the knowledge set. You can rattle off code to somebody and they look at you like a cow in headlights.”
So, improving his communication skills is definitely one of his goals while working at BCHS. Another goal, he said, is to “dress some things up” with the school’s older system components; such as work stations, networking and security. He has already implemented some stages of revamping the system, he added.
He works under Bill King, Technology Coordinator at BCHS, and with Ron Schwartz from the Franklin-Williamson Regional Office of Education. Schwartz is the network specialist at the ROE and has been influential in McCoy’s experience at the school, although he only visits BCHS one day each week, McCoy said.
“He’s been kind of a mentor to me,” he said. “He is the go-to-guy when I need the answer to a problem I can’t solve.”
Schwartz said he has worked in-depth with McCoy throughout the past few days.
“He is a very knowledgeable guy, very dependable. I think he enjoys what he is doing and he seems to be really good at it.”
McCoy said he hopes he is a valued employee. King assured he is.
“He’s doing a fine job for us in the world of IT,” King said.
King mentioned that a key quality for workers in the school system is the ability to work together and communicate effectively. Ironically, the one thing McCoy said he wants to improve upon is the main aspect King commended him for.
“We’ve had a couple of good [Co-Op students] from Rend Lake College and Jonathan is one of them,” King said. “The thing that has most impressed me is his positive attitude. He’s good with the teachers. Teachers get frustrated with technology when they are unfamiliar with it. When Jon has to go into a situation where they are frustrated, to my knowledge, he gets good reviews from the teachers. Another thing is that Jon tends to be good self starter and is a proactive thinker, which are two good skills that should serve him well in the world of work. Typically you are either a hardware geek or a software geek. I, myself, am a software geek. Jon is one of those rare birds that is both.”
McCoy is a sophomore, majoring in the IT Systems Specialist Program at RLC and plans to transfer to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale or to the University of Illinois.
His real passion is for photography, film and audio/video production, he said.
He and his dad, David McCoy, operate an audio/video production business called Devine Pro. Through the family business, they travel with touring Christian music acts and run the sound for the bands. His father performed in a band for about 25 years and McCoy himself was in a band before the members left the area to attend different colleges.
“I grew up ... running lights, seeing the aspects of putting a show together and being on the road,” he said. “Once it’s in your blood, you have to go back to it every time.
“That is what I would like to pursue as a career, but you are on the road for a long time and the money is there and then it is not there,” he added. “Career-wise, computers will probably be what I pursue.”
He said he joined the Co-Op program because he knew that hands-on experience would be valuable to him.
“With computers, you learn in labs and through scenarios. Instructors say, ‘This is how it should work.’ But, you eventually get in the field and have to deal with people and human error. Classrooms are not the best teachers for that.
“I wanted to get that experience,” he said. “I wanted to know what I would be up against if this is what I want to pursue. I don’t want to obtain a bachelor’s or master’s degree and then say, ‘Well, I made a mistake.”
Jenny O’Daniel, Director of the Center for Business Services at RLC, oversees the Co-Op program. McCoy’s work ethic was the catalyst for why she named him the Co-Op Student of the Month.
“Jonathan displays the strongest work ethic of any college student I have seen,” she said. “He gives 110 percent to each job he has and yet always portrays great personality. He always has a smile on his face and is so happy doing his work. He is truly a model RLC student. Jonathan is the example of a student and worker that all students should try to follow.”
“I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with Mark Kern and Ed Ruffino before Jenny and she definitely is good at what she does,” McCoy said. “I would definitely recommend the Co-Op program to anyone looking to gain experience and make a little bit of money.”
Set to graduate from RLC in the spring, McCoy lives in Benton with his father and mother, Annette McCoy. His sister, Melanie, is working toward her teaching certificate from SIUC.
McCoy also does computer-based training at Continental Tire North America in Mt. Vernon. About a year ago, he gave his resume to RLC STARS Director Ruffino and he passed it on to Sharon Bowman – the mediator between CTNA and RLC.
“I guess they basically looked at my resume and said, ‘If he can do half of the stuff he put on here, then he will do great.’”
Bob Shirley and Norman Galloway at CTNA were starting the CBT sessions for CTNA employees, McCoy explained. Over the summer, he introduced some ideas utilizing video for training purposes. Since then, they have approved to buy a green screen and lighting components, as well as set up a studio, he said. McCoy is now doing all kinds of video and interactive lessons, he explained.
While still in high school, his broad search for the technical college of his choice made him realize that the answer was only a few miles away.
His tour of the RLC Advanced Technology Center set the bar high, he said.
“I toured colleges in Indianapolis and Chicago,” he said. “I talked to people at DeVry University, ITT Technical Institute and visited several campuses in the Midwest. I went on a one-on-one tour of John A. Logan College. Rend Lake College, by far – not even looking at the financial aspect – had the drop on everybody regarding equipment and courses. RLC really has a well-rounded degree. Just the associate’s degree itself prepares and gears anybody wanting to enter the IT field of study with a very competitive education compared to that which you would receive from any of those other institutions.”
At BCHS, McCoy was active with Jazz Choir and the speech team. He was a state competitor for original comedy and humorous duet acting.
Most notably, he was involved in the creation and production of a project called Gen Y (Generation Y). Gen Y was a film documentary, called “Between the Covers,” featuring the high school experiences of a cross-section of the student body. It was one of 10 projects nationwide to set the bar for Web-based project development, according to McCoy. The project has since been used as a training aid at other schools in the country, he added.