#MCCGrads2019: ‘Do your best to recognize wisdom,’ student leader and vet says

Alex Keith says he has met “some extremely, extremely sharp” instructors at MCC-Blue River. The 3.9 GPA student is taking part in MCC commencement May 16.

New Metropolitan Community College grad Alex Keith plans to become a therapist and earn advanced degrees in psychology, but he has another goal, too: start a company that would introduce Dungeons and Dragons-loving teens to improv comedy.

The role-playing in D&D provides “a safe place for them to express themselves and be creative,” he says, and the improv would help players improve their social skills.

Speaking of therapists, he suggests everyone see one at some point. “Therapists help us translate what the world is saying to us so we can adapt to it,” he says.

Alex, 27, was president of MCC-Blue River’s Student Government Association in 2018-19. A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, he is attending college thanks to the GI Bill, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

Alex (foreground) served as a machine gunner in the Marines for four years.

Back story: He grew up in Independence and graduated from William Chrisman High School. After about a year at the University of Central Missouri, he did a four-year stint in the Marines starting in 2012. But he just barely got in: He weighed 107 pounds, 1 pound over the minimum of 106 (for his height, 5 feet 4 inches). “I was probably the smallest machine gunner in existence.”

During his first class at MCC-Blue River, in January 2017, he met Lucja Basinska, who would become Blue River’s first elected SGA president. Alex would be the second. For him, the highlight of the SGA experience came on Valentine’s Day this year, when musicians DnChi performed love songs in the cafeteria and SGA members sold carnations, turning a $120 profit. “You could just tell love was in the air,” he says. “And we put it all together.”

Beard story: Growing one is just what you do when you get out of the military, Alex says. But he couldn’t then because he was working at QuikTrip, which has a no-beard policy. He now works as a package handler at FedEx.

Favorite MCC moment: Meeting his girlfriend, Miriama Pope, in nutrition class. “She pretty much knew that I was a health nut.” He makes a daily smoothie with avocado, almonds, protein powder, almond milk and ice.

Favorite instructors: Adjunct history instructor Douglas Harvey and philosophy instructor Brandon Gillette. Both are “amazing” even if their classes are hard. “I met some extremely, extremely sharp professors” at Blue River, Alex says.

Challenging moment: Statistics class, where he got his one and only B. Otherwise: all A’s.

Next steps on the journey: He’s transferring to UMKC this fall, where he’s considering a music therapy degree. (At Blue River this semester, he took guitar and piano classes.)

MCC-Blue River SGA president Alex Keith with MCC Chancellor Kimberly Beatty at a start-of-school event in August 2018

Advice for other students: “Have a healthy sense of skepticism, but do your best to recognize wisdom when you see it or hear it.”

What others say: Student engagement manager Richard Monroe praises Alex’s dedication and commitment to Blue River. “He does a really good job relating and connecting” to all kinds of students, Monroe says.

Special thanks to: Monroe “did a good job of understanding when I was struggling,” Alex says, returning the compliment. “He was always there for me.”