Jonathan P. Woodley is a sergeant in the Colorado Army National Guard and a Global Community Engagement student who’s passionate about learning and making a difference. Jonathan’s passions inspired him to run for Denver City Council in the 2019 municipal elections, which will be held in May. We asked Jonathan about his experiences and what motivated him to get his master’s degree and be a city councilman, and what advice he has for those looking to make an impact.
What was your educational and professional background before enrolling at University College?
I started going to community college when I was 19 but was unable to afford it. I grew up in a single-parent household, and there was no money for school. Fast-forward to 2008, I was working 50-60 hours a week as a restaurant manager. I started to see my life continuing down that road. I wanted more for myself and knew I had so much more to offer.
I started seeing marketing material for the University of Phoenix and working towards a degree online. So I made a conscious decision to go to school and work. It required 100 percent commitment, and I was ready.
I graduated in 2013 with my bachelor’s degree. As I mentioned, the majority of my career revolved around the restaurant industry, mainly management. That is until, at the age of 33, I decided to join the U.S. Army through the Colorado National Guard. For some time, I worked as a manager while training with the National Guard. However, when we received the call that we were deploying to the Middle East, I started thinking about a master’s degree.
Q. What motivated you to get your master’s degree? What drew you to the Global Community Engagement program?
As I got older, I developed a craving for learning. During the deployment, I started asking myself, “Would you want to take it further?” The first degree was such an accomplishment, but I would be the first in my immediate family to get a master’s degree. A key part in making that decision was getting the G.I. Bill from my deployment, which meant I couldn’t use affordability as an excuse anymore.
During deployment, I was able to interact with so many different cultures—it was quite fascinating. I remember one day, I looked around, and there were people all over. Elders were sitting drinking tea, taking in their surroundings. Kids were playing outside and having fun. People seemed genuinely happy. The reason I was in shock was, there was no internet, no television, no cell phones, no real sinks or toilets. The homes were small and not furnished to the standards back in the States.
That’s when I knew that I wouldn’t go to school to learn more about business, but people. It fascinated me that there was all this joy in a country that faced so many problems, and I wanted to know why.
What are you hoping your degree in Global Community Engagement will help you achieve?
I hope that my degree helps me see the world through a different lens. Being born and raised in the United States, I feel we take things for granted many times.
My deployment was at the time of the 2016 presidential election. It was disturbing watching that from a different vantage point. There was so much arguing and fighting. It was pitting families, neighbors, and friends against each other. It was gut-wrenching. I don’t want to be one of those people that are so stuck in their ways that I refuse to listen to anyone’s opinion other than mine. We have so much to be grateful for, and I feel we lose ourselves sometimes.
What inspired you to run for Denver City Council?
As a child, I use to talk and laugh a lot, an extreme amount. Adults around me always said that I would end up in Hollywood or as a senator. While those are lofty expectations, city council is a start.
I didn’t grow up with much. We were what you would call middle class. Then my parents divorced while I was young. I know what struggle is and how difficult it was as child during those times. Some people helped me out along the way—not because they had to or felt obligated to, but because they had a good heart.
So why City Council? I think at this stage of my life, it’s a great place to help as many people as I can. I care about my community, and I’ve been helping others as long as I can remember.
What are your long-term career goals?
At this point in my life, I set short-term goals. My last goal achieved was to become a sergeant in the Army, and I accomplished that. My next goal is to win this election. If and when I achieve that, my goal will be to be the best councilman for Denver I can with a good heart.
What advice do you have for those looking to make an impact in their community?
My advice is simple: Take that leap! Too often I see people talk about wanting to make that impact but not end up following through. So, follow through. Put all excuses behind you. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, we all have a story, and we all have a reason “not to.” Just overcome that first hurdle, and who knows, you may inspire someone to be better, and one day, at their inaugural speech, you’ll be remembered.