Volume 97 Issue 3 Campus Spin

Humans of Juniata

by Jamie Mistretta

“I’m someone who has too many passions to be contained into one human being. I try to do more than my fair share to get all of the experiences I can.”

Jess Maxon, a familiar face to many, has played a variety of roles on Juniata’s campus. “A couple of months ago I was the residence director in South Hall, and I was the director of community service and service learning,” said Jess. “In September, I was honored to step into the role of interim director of student activities in addition to director of community service and service learning! So the piece that I’m now missing, and I say missing because it’s very sad, is being the R.D. of South.”

Each of the roles that Jess takes on has something in common: working with people. “I’ve just been interested in service in higher education because I think what I love most is working with people. I love helping students find connections in the community,” said Jess. “I think that education is more than what you learn in the classroom, but also what you can get out in the community. Your future is about what kind of impact you can make on that community. So practice now!”

It wasn’t always higher education and community service that interested Jess. “My bachelor’s degree is in chemistry and communication from Juniata. I am class of 2009. Right after graduating I joined the AmeriCorps, which is like the domestic version of the Peace Corps. My job was to run after-school programs in the Huntingdon County area. Juniata College offered me office space to do so. So I got really interested in higher education, because the director of community service, Abbey Baird, gave me some responsibilities on campus as well, which was kind of unusual and different.”

Although Jess did not study community service or higher education in college, she has always had community service in her life. “My favorite community service memory is from when I was a child. My mom always had us volunteering ever since I was a little kid, but the first thing I remember is that every year we would go to the local state park, Black Moshannon, which is in Centre County, and we would do a day of service every spring. I was about 6 or 7, and they decided to give me a leadership role — I got to carry the walkie-talkie for our team. Our team was re-staining the boardwalk, and I got to decide whether we started at one end of the boardwalk or the other one. I got to decide who got to be on what team, and I got to carry the walkie-talkie for the entire day, which was really cool.”

Not only does Jess appreciate the opportunities community service has created for her, but she also appreciates the opportunities community service has created for her students. “There was a student a couple of years ago who was really passionate about working with veterans. There isn’t a whole lot in this area that’s specifically designed for veterans, but we were very adamant about finding something. So we found this place called Tomorrow’s Hope in a tiny town called Coalport. It’s a homeless veteran’s shelter. At first, I was a little apprehensive about letting her go on her own because I wasn’t quite sure, I’d never heard of it before. So her and I went together and it was one of those experiences where I was the one being taught, not just teaching. Her and I had this really good experience and we continued to go back there for many years. She actually led a couple of trips there on her own once we became more comfortable with the place, and it grew from there.”

It is obvious that Jess is passionate about helping others, but she’s also passionate about getting others to be involved. Juniata is lucky to have a human as giving and philanthropic as Jess Maxon. We are honored to have her at our school, in so many roles, and of course, to many, as a friend. The feelings are mutual. “I am really passionate about the students here and I’m really passionate about all of our relationships, like every relationship that I’ve made here. I feel like that’s what gets me up in the morning, that’s what keeps me going, that’s what keeps me coming in every day. I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t have said ‘yes.’ It’s just that you guys are a really fantastic group and I can’t say that enough!”

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