Malcolm X College’s John Kelly is a “voice for veterans.” As the college’s Veterans Services Specialist and a former U.S. Marine, Kelly uses his own experiences to provide military-affiliated students with the resources they need to succeed—both in the classroom and in their lives.

Read Kelly’s story in his own words below:


There is camaraderie that veterans have that cannot be explained or duplicated. It comes from serving and being the military, willing to risk it all. We are all there for the same purpose—in service to our great country. I come from a family who served, so it was natural for me to enlist.

I was a marine for eight years—first based in San Diego, later serving in Japan, and deployed to Iraq twice during Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was a long way from the South Side of Chicago where I grew up. When I left the Marine Corps in 2009, I used the GI bill to attend Moraine Valley Community College and, again, to transfer to Saint Xavier, where I earned a degree in psychology.

I didn’t know it then, but my life’s mission began at Saint Xavier when I was a student worker in admissions. I soon became the voice for veterans there. I became their advocate; I understood them. They opened up to me when they learned that I, too, was a vet.

After graduation, I continued to work at Saint Xavier for six years. I left for a job at the railroad, but something was missing—I realized I missed working with veterans. When I saw the job posting for a veteran services specialist at City Colleges, I knew I had to apply. I was hired in June 2020, at the height of the pandemic, but it didn’t matter—I was home again.

I have found City Colleges of Chicago to be a community. It fosters individuality. As a specialist, one of six, we are a support network no matter which City Colleges campus our students attend. All of us connect internally to ensure our veteran students, active duty members, their families, and children are fully supported here. I’m proud to be here.

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