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Student traumatized by Las Vegas shooting loses scholarship

Updated January 26, 2018 - 12:37 pm

Cody Jones wants her life to get back to normal.

“For me it’s loud noises,” said Jones, a survivor of the Oct. 1 Route 91 Harvest festival shooting. “I jump at every loud noise I hear — the bang of a door, the bang of a tray. If I see someone with open carry in my workplace, I go in the back. It’s not the gun that gives me issue, it’s the person behind it. You never know what they’re thinking.”

Regaining a sense of normalcy became more difficult recently after the College of Southern Nevada student lost her Millennium Scholarship, which covered about 25 percent of her tuition.

Her grade-point average dropped to 2.1 this semester, which is below the required 2.6 GPA needed to maintain eligibility. It’s unclear if any other students lost the scholarship in the wake of the shooting.

“With the shooting, and not being able to focus on classes, I let my GPA fall below the level required,” Jones said. “I normally maintain a 3.25 to a 3.5 average.”

The Governor Guinn Millennium Scholarship Program, created in 1999, provides a maximum $10,000 award, paid on a per-credit hour basis, up to 15 credits each semester. Millennium Scholars at CSN receive $40 per credit hour.

“It’s very helpful,” she said. “I’m on the payment plan, so I have to pay a certain amount a month. But I can only probably pay half of that without the scholarship.”

‘Worse and worse and worse’

Jones was at the festival with her mother.

They have attended the concert four times, and stood in the same spot each year.

“You kind of meet friends and become friends with the people around you,” Jones said.

But when a person near her was shot in the arm it was the first indication that the bangs she heard during Jason Aldean’s performance weren’t firecrackers.

“A person who was about two feet in front of me was bleeding,” Jones said.

Her first instinct was to run, but instead, she and her mom got low to the ground. After the last bullets came down, they ran toward cover and ended up in front of the Tropicana.

“After the fact it’s been very difficult dealing with the stress of school and trying to get my life back to normal,” Jones said. “I remember in one of my classes, they were talking about mass fatalities. I immediately left the class. I wasn’t able to stomach it.”

On Oct. 2, classes were in session, but Jones said she couldn’t handle going to class and missed turning in an assignment. Her professor was understanding, but the rest of the semester didn’t go as well.

“I was physically there, but mentally I was in some other world,” Jones said. “When I first started off, I didn’t want to admit I was having these issues. It slowly got worse and worse and worse. I didn’t know who to go to.”

Jones said she may have sooner been able to address the post-traumatic stress, but wished that the school was more vocal about what it could do to help students like her.

“Honestly, I was disappointed in myself,” she said. “I didn’t know I was losing it at the time.”

Her mother, Bobbie Jones, reached out to Joseph Ostunio, who put out a call to action via a survivor’s group on Facebook.

“I’m completely shocked we’ve gotten to this place,” Ostunio said. “We’re already in second semester. Some of these kids might not be able to graduate or even attend classes.”

Jones, who is studying flight operations at CSN, is enrolled in classes this semester, but has needed to log extra hours at a local restaurant and asked her mom for financial help.

Ostunio helped connect Jones with Assemblyman Richard Carrillo, who put Jones in touch with a case manager who is working to help get her scholarship back.

“They were able to get the Millennium Scholarship. That’s not something they hand out to everybody all the time,” Carrillo said. “This individual was able to receive it, so why should it be so easily taken away?”

Carrillo said he’s heard of at least one other student in a similar situation.

“I think their voices should be heard,” he said.

A CSN spokesman said the school could not discuss Jones’ case, but issued a statement:

“While we cannot talk about individual students, we can say that CSN makes every effort to provide the resources all of our students need to be successful,” the statement read. “These include counseling and psychological services, advising, tutoring, careful monitoring of academic progress and help when it is needed, a fully engaged faculty, and addressing specific student needs on a case-by-case basis when necessary.”

Grant Hewitt, chief of staff for the state Treasurer’s office, said his office will work “hand in hand” with the Nevada System of Higher Education to help scholarship students affected by PTSD associated with the shooting.

Jones has taken some things into her own hands as well.

She joined the Army ROTC in December, hoping it will help her get over her fear of holding a rifle, and of seeing blood.

“I wanted to be the change I wanted to see in the world,” she said. “I pray and I hope that the Route 91 shooting, that something like this never happens again.”

Contact Natalie Bruzda at nbruzda@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3897. Follow @NatalieBruzda on Twitter.

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