by Kelly Cox
John McKillip has the gift of gab.
To be fair, it’s self-proclaimed to be both a gift and a curse. But to look at McKillip today, it’s hard not to see his garrulousness as an undeniable asset. Combined with his compassion and fierce self-determination, McKillip’s gift of gab has led him to success throughout multiple careers as well as in and out of the classroom as an MCCC student.
We should all be so friendly.
McKillip, of Gilbertsville, has long been in the business of holding down a job and maintaining independence, so when he left college at 19 to drive for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, he was quick to excel, becoming one of the first applicants to receive a 100% on the trolley exam. However a back injury and the subsequent therapy led McKillip away from SEPTA. Through a connection, McKillip moved to Canon Business Solutions in Philadelphia.
Utilizing his gift of gab, McKillip inevitably excelled once again. Through working with clients to get them what they needed to succeed, supporting businesses and their employees, even operating alongside Pennsylvania school boards, McKillip was able to do what he does best: work with people and work to help people. Within seven years, he rose in the ranks to become a senior site manager. However when the company went through serious downsizing, many employees, including McKillip, were cut, and he found himself without a career and a family to support.
“I had just moved to Gilbertsville from Upper Darby and I needed to pay mortgage and feed my kids. I was devastated and just wondering what I could do,” McKillip confessed.
Not being one to dwell in a setback, McKillip did what he does best and charged forward while turning on the gab. In a four month period he churned out uncountable applications, put on a suit, and knocked on the doors of his local businesses. Soon, he found himself wandering a path that led straight to the classroom.
“I had to humble myself and say that I needed help,” McKillip revealed. “I didn’t wait until we were hurting. I went out and got help right away from various programs, and one thing that I found was that grants were available for dads and not just moms who wanted to go back to school.”
Using career building websites and personal inventories, McKillip found himself circling the medical and technology field. Although at first hesitant, he found himself researching the career of medical radiographer, which brought him to an ephinany.
“I worked with big machines, I worked with clients, and I worked with customers. With this I would still be working with big machines, I’d still be working with clients, and now I’d be working with patients. To me, it’s still customer service.”
McKillip realized that through radiography, his natural people-oriented nature could be utilized to an even greater degree.
“When I hurt my back with SEPTA and I needed to get a lot of testing done…I found out these people were the nicest people in the medical community,” McKillip mentioned. “They always were about the patient not about the procedure. They made you feel comfortable, talked you through it, put a hand on your shoulder, whatever it took.”
With a decision made, McKillip began researching schools and quickly settled on MCCC for its cost efficiency and proximity to his home. Immediately, he threw himself into the MCCC experience and began to thrive in the vibrant community. While over-loading classes to get his prerequisites out of the way, he simultaneously made Deans List, an honor he has continued earning subsequent semesters.
Since arriving at MCCC McKillip has become a member of Phi Theta Kappa and Lambda Nu, he is president of his radiography class and of the Radiography Club, and he has spoken on behalf of the college and its resources in Harrisburg. He has done volunteer work with Doug’s Corner community service club, and he has taken an introduction to golf course, proving that he has garnered the full range of college experiences.
“I will have 95 credits when graduating, not too far from a bachelors degree,” McKillip shared. “I hated school and I don’t hate school anymore…it’s been a challenge, it’s been crazy, and there are parts of it that I’ve hated and parts of it that I’ve loved. I’ve done things that I never thought I would do.”
As is his practice, McKillip has taken hold of opportunities and then found ways to contribute to his community. For him, MCCC has been both a source of aid and a vehicle for giving back. As part of the Keystone Education Yields Success (KEYS) program, McKillip cherished the support he received, and then turned around and became a peer mentor himself, helping others gain access to valuable information about MCCC programs.
“All the research I’ve done and the information I’ve gathered…I don’t keep my lamp under a bushel. I got out and let everyone else know about it, good, bad, indifferent. I was given a voice and I use it. And if I can save one person from a hassle that I had to go through to get something, if I can help someone else get into a program like the KEYS program…it’s wonderful to have cheerleaders.”
And McKillip is definitely a cheerleader for MCCC. Calling the college and its resources “a diamond in the rough,” he has been blown away by the support that he’s received from both the MCCC community and the radiography community. Having settled into the program, McKillip seems to have found both the place and the career that suit him best.
“Radiography has constant challenges, you need to think outside of the box,” McKillip mentioned. “I’ve had more aha moments as a student in my clinical rotation than I have ever in my life. And it blows me away.”
As for his commitment to helping others and using his gift of gab for good, McKillip has found that radiography has been a natural transition.
“When I am talking to the patients, my brain knows what I need to get on my films, my images, but I’m worried about them a person,” McKillip said of his experience in clinical rotation. “I don’t care if they are rich or poor, what color they are, any of that, I just see them as a person who needs my help. And that just takes over for me.”
Considering his role as both a cheerleader and cheer receiver, McKillip pointed to his family as a huge source of support during his times of transition. Married for 22 years in May, and having been together 27 years in June, McKillip spoke of his wife saying that “it’s not every day you find your soul mate, and there is no doubt that she’s mine.”
In an amazing show of balance and time management, McKillip’s family includes two daughters and a son, and they have recently welcomed a grandson into their fold.
“If it wasn’t for family, faith, friends, and the people here,” McKillip declared, “there is no way I could do this.”
Looking forward, McKillip is optimistic about his future in radiography using the tools that MCCC has given him along with his natural gift for networking. While he’s enjoyed his clinical work, McKillip has even considered taking management courses to run his own imaging center, or perhaps going full circle and coming back to teach at a radiography program in the future.
“I’m hoping that I made all of the right moves and arrangements to get to where I need be. I want to work, that’s my thing. And helping people, doing something that I can actually say I love to be doing…that’s amazing.”