Psychology grad and JSC distance learner Justin Verette plays a vital role supporting community mental health.
Justin Verette’s job regularly takes him to the emergency room at local medical center, to homes where residents may be shooting heroin, to the downtown streets to check on people who are homeless, and wherever he needs to be to comfort those who are suicidal.
“I really like that every day is different and I never know what my day is going to look like,” says Justin, an outreach interventionist who responds to mental-health-related calls received by the local police department and 911.
Justin, 40, earned his B.A. in Psychology in 2016 as a distance learner and says the knowledge he gained has helped him many ways in his job. Among other things, “the program served to remind me how important it is to take care of myself first, and then take care of others,” he says. “That’s important, especially in this profession.”
In addition to taking psychology courses, Justin enjoyed taking wellness-related electives such as music therapy. “Through those courses, JSC pushed me out of my comfort zone, which I ended up really liking,” he says.
One thing that’s not particularly out of Justin’s “comfort zone” is his job. During his early 20s, he went through a period of drug use, misdemeanors and homelessness. Luckily, before long he realized he was “too young to just kind of give up and live out on the California streets,” so he got his act together and found a job working with at-risk and homeless youth. “I realized that I could have an impact on a person and give something back. That was huge for me,” he says.
Discovering the distance-learning Psychology program at JSC also was huge for Justin. “I talked with other psych grads who had earned their degrees through the program, and they had nothing but good things to say,” he recalls. “It just felt like this was going to be the right fit.”
He took advantage of the program’s flexibility, working full time and taking classes part time. He liked the small classes, which he says fostered a sense of community. “The program really works with your schedule,” he says. “The advisors let you decide how much time you have to put into the program. They want you to be successful, and they want you to graduate, so they’re willing to work with you. That was huge for me.”
As for his job? “I never imagined I’d be working with the police in a social services role, but now here I am,” he says. “I’m playing the role of someone I wish I’d had earlier in my life, and I love it.”