Student Jackie Bell exemplifies leadership, strength, and perseverance
Jackie Bell is all about connections. Currently a criminal justice student at IU Northwest, Bell is connecting her past military experience to higher education.
Instead of opting for college right out of high school, Bell signed her military contract, and headed to basic training in 1998. For the next 10 years, she worked as a carpentry and masonry specialist, as well as a human resources specialist.
But in 2008, after hanging up her military cap, Bell struggled to find a job. "Nobody would take my military background as a human resources specialist. Everyone said I didn’t have enough experience," she said. "I did everything in the job description, except I also had the possibility of doing it in combat."
Despite the disappointment, Bell wasn’t one to give up. She learned about veterans’ benefits that allowed her to enroll in higher education. Bell said from the moment she walked onto IU Northwest’s campus, she felt comfortable. Before long, she was a criminal justice major at the campus, and soon, the president of the Military Service Association (MSA) at IU Northwest.
In her role as president, Bell is enthusiastic about giving other veterans on campus a community of new connections. "When we leave the military, we lose that community. It can be isolating," she said.
Bell has big plans for the MSA, especially now that the founding president (also an IU Northwest alumnus) has been named veterans coordinator at the campus. She would like the group to sponsor an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and spearhead more community service projects in Northwest Indiana.
Between academics and leadership roles, it’s hard to believe that Bell has time for anything else. As an adult student, she has had to work both part-time and full-time, while also taking care of family responsibilities.
"It’s a matter of balancing school life, home life, and work," she said. "Everything goes in my calendar, and I’m constantly looking for better ways to keep myself organized."
While organization has been a learning curve for Bell, giving up just isn’t in her. Ever since she was young, she’s dreamed of working in law enforcement. And despite chronic pain and a disability, she still pushes forward.
"I can’t pass a physical or fitness test for law enforcement, so I know I’ll need a desk job," Bell said. "My dream job is to eventually work for Homeland Security as an intel analyst."
Bell admits that this is a lofty goal, especially without hands-on law enforcement experience under her belt. But she strives for her dream anyway, hoping to get a master’s degree in emergency management and homeland security after graduation.
"I want to protect my community; I want to fight the bad guy," she said. "As a kid, I never wanted to play house—I always wanted to play cops," Bell added, jokingly.
As Bell works toward her goals, the connections she’s made at IU Northwest aren’t lost on her. She encourages students, no matter their age, to get involved on campus. "I’ve made great connections by working with student organizations," Bell said. "These are contacts that after you graduate, they’re still going to be a support, and help connect you with others."
While Bell enjoys the connections she’s forged over the last few years, she also helps other veterans create their own connections. Bell’s selfless service to the veteran community on campus will be felt for years to come, even as she moves on from IU Northwest and takes that next step toward her dream.