Alumna Spotlight: Janet Lorenzo

Honoring veterans on Veterans Day: U.S. Navy veteran earns MSW from St. Catherine University

Janet Lorenzo, 36, graduated from Inver Hills Community College in May 2017 with a Human Service Worker Associate of Science (A.S.) degree. Janet went on to earn her Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Social Work from the College of St. Scholastica and then her Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) from St. Catherine University.

Today, Janet serves as the military and veteran coordinator as well as the school certifying official at North Hennepin Community College.

“What I love about NHCC is the opportunity for growth, the diversity the college has to offer and the leadership,” Janet said. “My human services degree helped prepare me to work with a diverse population, build relationships with students, and meet diverse learning needs.”

Janet added that she has wanted nothing more than to work with veterans. “My heart has always been about serving our country and serving those who have served,” she said. “I feel I am doing all I dreamed of doing and more.”

Club V.A.L.O.R. at Inver Hills

Club V.A.L.O.R. officers in 2017: (left to right) David Zelm, president elect, Winona Guerue, public relations, Kevin Schulz, Ahryon Gheyssarieh, vice president elect, Josh Larson, public relations elect, Janet Lorenzo, vice president, Luke McNamara, treasurer, Kristine Deutsch, secretary, Josh Christianson, president

During her time as an Inver Hills student, Janet served as vice president of Club V.A.L.O.R. (Veterans And Loved Ones Resources). Club V.A.L.O.R. is a chapter of Student Veterans of America (SVA), the premier organization leading service, research, programs and advocacy for veterans in higher education. The Inver Hills chapter’s mission is delivering the resources military veterans need to meet their college and career goals.

Club V.A.L.O.R. members mentor and support other veterans and their families while coordinating community and campus events such as welcome home and Veterans Day celebrations. Members also volunteer at organizations that provide veteran services.

In 2017, Club V.A.L.O.R. was recognized by Minnesota Campus Compact with the Presidents’ Student Leadership Award. The award is for an individual student or a student organization that models a deep commitment to civic responsibility and leadership, evidenced by initiative, innovative and collaborative approaches to addressing public issues, effective community building, and integration of civic engagement into the college experience.

Veterans’ Voices Award

Janet Lorenzo and Sue Flannigan

Also in 2017, Janet was honored with the Veterans’ Voices Award from the Minnesota Humanities Center. The award recognizes Minnesota veterans and active-duty military personnel who are making significant contributions to their communities through their profession and/or volunteerism.

Recipients are honored in two categories: On the Rise (40 and under) or Legacy (over 40). More than one hundred veterans from 70 Minnesota communities have received the Veterans’ Voices Award since its introduction in 2013.

“I am grateful to receive this award, however, I did not do it alone,” Janet said at the time. “I have many people who have supported me along this journey—my Club V.A.L.O.R. friends and family.”

The awards were presented Monday, September 11, 2017, at the fifth annual Veterans’ Voices Award Ceremony at the Anderson Student Center on the University of St. Thomas campus in St. Paul. Reg Chapman, WCCO-TV reporter and veteran, emceed the event.

Sue Flannigan, military and veteran services coordinator at Inver Hills, accompanied Janet to the Veterans’ Voices Award Ceremony. “Seventy nominations were submitted that year and only twenty candidates were selected for the award,” Sue said. “Janet has been a leading force for veterans at the college and in our community. She was nominated for the award by one of her student peers, also a veteran.”

Veterans Pinning Ceremony 2017

Janet Lorenzo at Inver Hills gallery

More about Janet Lorenzo…

Guam, USA

Originally from Agana Heights, Guam, Janet graduated in 2002 from George Washington High School in Mangilao, a village with 15,000 residents on the eastern shore of Guam, an organized territory of the United States situated in the western Pacific Ocean.

Shortly after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Japanese military captured Guam and occupied the island for 30 months. American forces liberated Guam on July 21, 1944, and the event is remembered each year on Liberation Day. Guam’s economy is buoyed by tourism and the presence of U.S. Armed Forces.

Janet with shipmates

Before enrolling at Inver Hills, Janet served from 2003 to 2007 in the U.S. Navy while raising two children. She was a BM3, or petty officer third class with the job of boatswain’s mate, a traditionally male role aboard ship.

She served aboard USS Nimitz (CVN-68), a 100,000-ton supercarrier with a crew of 5,680 (3,200 ship’s company and 2,480 air wing) and 90 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. She also served aboard USS Milius (DDG-69), an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile destroyer.

From 2005 to 2007, she was stationed at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, California. NAS North Island is considered the birthplace of naval aviation.

USS Nimitz (CVN-68)

Janet worked for Military and Veteran Services while going to Inver Hills through the VA work-study program and her Human Services internship. She worked for Sue Flannigan and liked to be known as “Sue’s assistant.”

“Janet served in the United States Navy, which has the core values: ‘Honor, Courage and Commitment,'” Sue said. “If you know Janet, it should come to no surprise that she lives up to this core values on a daily basis. I am so proud of all her accomplishments and continue to watch her grow as she helps others in need whether it’s military-related or strengthening families to live healthy lifestyles.”

During her time at the college, Janet led many volunteer opportunities, including:

  • American Red Cross Blood Drive
  • Majestic Hills Ranch
  • Eagles Healing Nest
  • Twin Cities Honor Flight Welcome Home Celebration
  • Fort Snelling National Cemetery Clean-Up
  • Toiletry Drive for the Eagan Pantry
  • Military 4 Kids Toy Drive
  • Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Committee

As an Inver Hills student, Janet joined Student Senate and belonged to the student club, VIBE (Volunteering Individuals Brings Empowerment), and the Alpha Omicron Beta chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. She belonged to Student Veterans of America (SVA) and served as chairperson of the Inver Grove Heights Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Campaign. She also oversaw BTYR functions at Inver Hills.

Janet resides in Inver Grove Heights with Mike, her partner of five years. He works for Airtec Sports in Roberts, Wisconsin. “Mike has always been supportive of everything I do even when he knows I am overloading myself,” Janet said. “He will find a way to help me balance myself out.”

Janet has three boys, Mason, 16, James, 11, and Scott, 11. The family has a transgender kitty name Skyball. In her free time, Janet loves riding with Mike on his Harley. She also enjoys hiking, being outdoors and archery. Mike taught her how to shoot a bow.

Janet Lorenzo Q & A

Janet Lorenzo

Why did you choose Inver?
I had heard nothing but great things about the school from people I know. Meeting Sue Flannigan sealed the deal. We connected right away when she mentioned VALOR and asked me to be a part of the student veteran organization on campus.

What did you like best about the Human Services program?
My mentors! Tom and Cheryl are amazing people with a wealth of knowledge to pass on. I capitalized on all they had to offer. [Note: Tom Reis and Cheryl Redinger are human services faculty at Inver Hills.]

Why did you join the U.S. Navy?
I joined the Navy because it was an opportunity to expose myself to new cultures and new people. My twin sister, Jaimee, joined the Navy after high school. She loved everything about it. She convinced me to give it a try and I did.

What did you do in the U.S. Navy?
I did a variety of things. I drove the ship (USS Nimitz and USS Milius), handled replenishment of supplies and even did maintenance around the skin of the ship. I was also a boatswain’s mate of the watch, which means during my watch I kept track of everything that happened in the pilothouse.

Three words that describe you as a person:
I’m a Chihuahua who thinks she’s a pit bull.

What were your duties as vice president of Club V.A.L.O.R.?
I held everyone responsible for their commitment. Volunteer work is based on our own time and free labor, however, anyone who chooses to do volunteer work should do so with the understanding of giving 110 percent. I organized our events and kept a healthy relationship with the organization.

Why did you choose human services as your career path?
I love interacting with people. I appreciate people who want to make a change in this already cruel world. I remind everyone to pay it forward. People helping people is how we stop the violence, hate crime and division in our country.

What are the most significant issues for student veterans?
Student veterans can encounter a variety of issues. From transitioning from military to civilian life to visible and invisible disabilities. It can sometimes be difficult for a veteran to say they need help. We are here to let them know support is what Veteran Services does. We will do what we can to help them get established.

What advice would you give a new student veteran?
Utilize your resources. They are out there! Programs were created to help you! If you don’t use it, you lose it. That simple.

Inver Hills Commencement 2017

What would you tell someone thinking about doing volunteer work?
Best food for the soul. Volunteer work does not have to be boring or awful. With the right group, you can make volunteer opportunities the best memories anyone can ask for. VALOR has a ton of hours into volunteer work, but we also make a point to have fun, laugh and make great memories. We are each other’s support system and second family.

What person has influenced your life the most?
My twin sister, Jaimee. She is my role model and my biggest cheerleader. She holds me accountable and lifts my spirits when I hit a rough patch.

What has been your greatest challenge so far?
I try not to get to heavily involved with the people I am working with because it is not personal when I do volunteer work. I love what I do, but I cannot make changes for people that I help. This is a decision they need to make on their own. They are their own advocate.

What is your greatest achievement so far:
Going back to school!!! This will forever be the best choice I have made.

Janet Lorenzo 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: I love being outside hiking, evening walks and camping.
  2. Place you would most like to visit: I would love to go back to Seychelles. So much peace and beauty. Turn off your cell phone and enjoy listening to the ocean. 
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: I was on the Nimitz, we were catapulted off the ship in a C130 on a flight back to Guam. 
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1)Open a therapy ranch for veterans to connect with animals and nature 2) Open an apartment complex that will allow veterans to get back on their feet 3)  Open a nonprofit organization to allow those same veterans to continue carrying the torch to help others
  5. Favorite TV show you’re watching now: Burn Notice
  6. Best movie you’ve seen lately: Count of Monte Cristo
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Drive the east coast for a summer vacation
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Guam rail
  9. Dream occupation: Military and veteran coordinator
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Jane Addams, the mother of social work
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: I don’t have any skills I would like to master at the moment. I used quarantine to learn several new things like being a minimalist, living within my means, making meals on a budget and organizing every part of my home.
  12.  Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Poverty, marginalized population, climate change and food insecurity.
Learn more about Military & Veteran Services at Inver Hills by contacting:

Sue Flannigan
Military & Veteran Services Coordinator
School Certifying Official
College Center: Room 214

Learn more about the Pre-Social Work Transfer Pathway A.S. at Inver Hills by contacting:

Cheryl Redinger
Human Services Faculty

Tom Reis
Human Services Faculty

Inver Hills Commencement 2017

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