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2024 - Meet Jess Heiser

Tags: Student Profile
Published 03/04/2024
ECC student Jess Heiser

ECC student Jess Heiser

Elgin Community College student Jess Heiser of St. Charles said the drive to help people started as a child. “I want to advocate for people because I’m passionate about it and have had to for myself,” Heiser said. “I also have friends with mental health issues and see how they’ve gotten stuck in the system. Fixing that system is what drove me to social work.”

Heiser plans on majoring in social work and is pursuing an Associate of Arts degree and an Associate of Applied Science – Human Services Generalist degree. She enrolled at ECC in 2019 and said she immediately felt lost. College was different from her high school experience. As a high school student, Heiser had an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and a case manager who knew her schedule and could provide necessary accommodations. 

“I knew I would need the same thing in college, but I quickly figured out finding that help was all on me,” Jess said. “You need to advocate for yourself because no one is holding your hand anymore.” 

Through advocating for herself, which wasn’t an easy process, she met Pietrina Probst, director of ADA, student access, and disability services at ECC. “I love working with Pietrina because she’s so nice and understands how to work with you,” Heiser said.

With all of the support Heiser has received at ECC, she said there’s no stopping her journey after graduation. She said she won’t settle until she receives her doctorate.   

Through her education and unwavering passion, Heiser said she’s determined to continue to advocate for herself and others and truly change how current and future students receive the disability services they need and deserve. 

Read more about this ECC trailblazer!

What’s one thing you do outside of ECC? I like to go to haunted houses. If I lived in a world where there were no bills to pay, I’d be a haunted house actress. I like knowing what it is like to be in someone’s skin and interpreting that.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? When I was really little, I wanted to be a dog walker because I loved animals. Then, I wanted to be a teacher, but I realized I didn’t want to teach the same thing multiple times a day or semesters. When I changed to social work, I knew it was right for me because I still get to help and connect with people.

Dogs, cats, or houseplants? Dogs! I have a pitbull and a Chinese crested powderpuff – it’s like a hairless dog, but they have tufts of hair. The pitbull acts like the little dog, and the powderpuff, which is actually smaller, acts like the big dog. It cracks me up.

What’s your favorite meal to either cook or eat out? I like to eat chicken nuggets or chicken tenders with fries and a side of ranch if we go out to dinner.

Shout out an ECC staff member! Liddy Hope! (Liddy Hope, PhD, assistant professor of human services.) Liddy is really good at accommodating her students. She is awesome, and she is amazing. She’ll even come up to me and say, ‘I was thinking about doing this for this activity. Does that work for you? We can try it out, and if it doesn’t, we can try something else.’ She sees me as a person, not just that I’m in a wheelchair and need these services. She sees me and my capabilities; she called me brilliant once. I have never heard that before, and that’s really big for me. I appreciate her so much.