Three Terra State students placed in top 30 in Ohio

Jonathon Dull, Brayden Haar and Felicia Girdner
Jonathon Dull, Brayden Haar and Felicia Girdner

Terra State Community College students Jonathon (JJ) Dull, Brayden Haar and Felicia Girdner all won All Ohio Academic Team awards for the 2019-2020 academic year.

The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation sponsors the Coca-Cola Academic Team program by recognizing 50 Gold, 50 Silver and 50 Bronze Scholars with nearly $200,000 in scholarships annually. Each scholar also receives a commemorative medallion.

Students are nominated for the academic team by their college administrators. Selection is based on academic achievement, leadership, and engagement in college and community service.

Terra State Associate Professor Michelle White nominated all three winners. “I just really want to make sure our students get the scholarships they deserve,” she said.

Dull, a second-year student studying interactive media, has been named a 2020 Coca-Cola Academic Team Silver Scholar, placing in the top 10 community college students in Ohio and top 150 in the nation, and will receive a $1,250 scholarship.

“Honestly, this is an honor because I realize there are millions of people around the country in PTK (Phi Theta Kappa, an honors society) and I just joined this year,” said Dull. “I didn’t expect this many doors to open up out of it.”

Dull has bloomed in the face of adversity. He grew up in an unstable family environment and his parents eventually divorced. In January 2019, he lost his father to suicide. This tragedy filled Dull with sadness and suicidal thoughts.

Instead of dwelling in his own thoughts, he started exploring ways to help others. He created “You Matter Media,” which serves as a social media community focused on breaking the silence around mental illness. Dull takes photos of people and uses them to create encouraging posts on Facebook and Instagram.

“Jonathon is a truly amazing young man,” said White. “It’s impressive to see him push through those traumatic experiences and make something positive out of it.”

Dull is planning on attending Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in the fall and building on his photography experience by studying Visual Communication Technology (VCT).

“I wanted to thank Michelle because I had no idea about any of this until she approached me and walked me through the entire process,” Dull said. “She even helped me fill out my application after hours while she was off campus.”

Brayden Haar and Felicia Girdner placed Third Team All-Ohio, an honor putting them in the top 30 in the state in each category. They will each receive a $250 scholarship.

Haar, a 2020 graduate at Vanguard Sentinel Career and Technology Centers who was enrolled in Terra State’s College Credit Plus (CCP) program and will be a full-time student in the fall, was excited to hear about this honor. “It sounds like a pretty big thing and I was honored Michelle nominated me.”

During his childhood, Haar had an abusive father who was addicted to drugs and alcohol. When his mother left his father, he began seeing changes in himself and became a better student. “It’s amazing how one barrier can change how you do in life,” he said.

In eighth grade, he had to have a couple surgeries done, which forced him to miss school, but that didn’t stop him from pushing through and completing his classwork. At Terra State he has been listed on the Dean’s List and plans to continue on his path to earning a Computer Information Systems (CIS) degree and begin a career in cybersecurity all while working to help pay for college.

Girdner, a 43-year-old nontraditional student studying manufacturing engineering at Terra State, is also happy to receive a distinction such as this as she is divorced and finding ways to earn a living for herself and her child.

After graduating, she plans to transfer her credits to the University of Toledo (UT) or BGSU and continue on the engineering track. Her dream is to work for NASA.

Phi Theta Kappa is the premier honor society recognizing the academic achievement of students at associate degree-granting colleges and helping them to grow as scholars and leaders. The Society is made up of more than 3.5 million members and nearly 1,300 chapters in 11 nations, with approximately 240,000 active members in the nation’s colleges. Learn more at