Celebrating our Graduates: Nkuthalo Chonco
Career Program: Substance Use Disorder Counseling
Originally From: Pretoria, South Africa
Current Residence: Oshkosh
Years of Attendance at FVTC: Fall 2020 - Spring 2023
Nkuthalo "JJ" Chonco will provide the student address at the FVTC Spring 2023 Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 14.
JJ chose the Substance Use Disorder Counseling (SUDC) program after his youngest sister passed away due to a car accident involving alcohol. During this difficult time, he witnessed his mother’s deep sense of forgiveness, helping the person responsible through a treatment program. This compassion not only helped families heal but also inspired JJ to pursue a career in substance use counseling.
FVTC has given JJ a sense of home in the Fox Cities after moving from South Africa five years ago. He credits the SUDC program with challenging his thinking and how he communicates with others has become more considerate and meaningful because of his education at FVTC.
JJ is a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and NAADAC, a national organization for addiction professionals. He also volunteers at the Oshkosh Warming Shelter and is a coach with Oshkosh Youth Soccer Club.
Earlier this year, JJ began his career as a full-time counselor at the Drug Abuse Correctional Center in Oshkosh. He plans to eventually pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work. He recently joined the Wisconsin National Guard and will begin basic training later this year.
Why did you choose to study this field?
I was initially inspired by the death of a loved one, and I want to keep others from feeling that loss. During my professional journey, I hope that I can plant the seeds of change in someone else’s mind.
Tell us how you came to choose FVTC for your education.
FVTC has one of the most widely regarded Substance Use Disorder Counseling programs. As I was asking questions and looking into furthering my education the staff at FVTC went above and beyond in making me feel comfortable. Ninety percent of the people I meet in this profession have a link to FVTC.
What's been the most rewarding part of your educational journey at FVTC?
Discovering that as I was learning and working toward my academic goals, I was learning about the kind of human being I want to be. The people that FVTC put into my life are people who inspire me to be better.
What was the most difficult part?
My instructor, Miah Olson, always says "trust the process" which is hard to do when you are filled with doubts about your readiness to take the next step. The most difficult part of this journey has been getting out of my own way, letting go, and trusting the process.
What will you do on graduation day or in the future to celebrate graduation?
Graduation this year happens to fall on Mother’s Day. I want to celebrate my mother because I would have given up numerous times in my life without her gentle and at times not-so-gentle support. I also want to buy the most expensive and best-tasting steak I can find and eat it guilt-free!
Tell us about your plans after graduation.
I will be working at the Drug Abuse Correctional Center in Oshkosh. I plan to further my education and pursue my bachelor’s and then master’s in social work and ultimately work with individuals who have a dual diagnosis.
One last parting thought or words of wisdom to share with others.
"Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will." Suzy Kassem