Brian Lukasak has had many titles in his life: processing
coordinator, husband, father, foster parent and missionary worker to name a
few. Now he can proudly add college graduate to the list.
The Kimball Township resident said the road to
achieving his goal of becoming a college graduate wasn’t without its struggles,
and there were many times he felt like giving up.
Lukasak started at SC4 in 1996 after graduating from
St. Clair High School. He opted to attend part-time at night so he could work
full-time as a machine operator and programmer during the day.
toward an associate degree in manufacturing, he decided to stop attending
school, a decision he now regrets.
“I should have never stopped going,” he said. “I went
part-time at night after high school because I had that job and then I thought
the paycheck was more important than school so I stopped going. That didn’t
help me because I got laid off.”
It was after he
was let go from his position that he decided to come back to SC4, but Lukasak
found the degree he was working for was no longer offered. Instead he chose
“I picked that
degree because my advisor said wind and solar power was going to be the big
thing coming into our area and I had credits that went toward it from my
previous try at manufacturing,” he said.
completing his degree wasn’t easy, but he managed to find a balance between
work, school and raising his three children with his wife Shelley.
“Coming back, what helped me to keep going was my
family, first and foremost, and my wife Shelley who kept me moving,” he said. “At
a couple points I thought ‘I’m not made for school. I can’t do the late night
thing and stay up and study until 11 or 12 at night and then go back to work
the next morning.’
“I thought, ‘I’m not going to make it.’ But she kept
pushing me and told me to keep going and my kids told me to keep going. My
parents and in-laws kept telling me to keep going, and a couple instructors
there encouraged me to continue going and told me I would get through it and
they would help me out.”
Lukasak earned a certificate in industrial electronics
and automation, and an associate in mechatronics graduating cum laude. He was
on the president’s list multiple times for his grades, and was asked to join
the honors society, Phi Theta Kappa.
Lukasak said walking across the stage at graduation
was like sitting on a cloud.
“I actually accomplished and got that degree I had
been working for, for so long,” he said. “My family was happy and they were all
there at graduation time. Shelley, my wife, took my cap and decorated it up and
put ‘Super Dad’ on it, it was great.”
He felt many of his professors were influential but
singled out Karen Thrift as one he will never forget because of her knowledge
“She isn’t there now but she taught all of the machine
shop classes like beginning CNC and the blue print reading type classes,”
Lukasak said. “If a student wasn’t catching on quick enough she would take the
time to help them out, or would slow down in the class, or give them more
one-on-one teaching instead of assuming they would catch on eventually. She
wanted everyone to learn and she wasn’t there to fail you.”
addition to attending classes at SC4, Lukasak said he was hired into Mapal in
2005 only to get laid off again in 2008. He was later rehired and currently
works there as a processing coordinator.
“When they hired
me back I was finishing up my degree and it was tough,” he said. “I would study
late at night after the kids went to bed or I would try to get the instructor
to stay later so I could finish up there and get things done at school before
returning home. But it was important to finish the degree because I knew it
would give me more job security.”
Lukasak said in
his current position he works with customers to refurbish or repair tools. He feels
SC4 prepared him greatly for his current role as he learned all of his
knowledge of how the tools are built and machined, and gained his overall
knowledge of the trade and how to apply it to his position at the school.
"I think SC4 is a
great place to go to school and start out to get your basics or an associate
degree. They have a lot to offer there, it’s a good atmosphere and they offer a
lot of degrees,” he said. “Student’s would be crazy if they didn’t want to go
For now, Lukasak is comfortable in his position, but
in the future he can see himself pursing a job more in line with his degree.
“I think it would be cool to say, ‘See that windmill?
I programmed it and did everything to make it gain the energy needed to be able
to power that street or home or building or whatever it is connected to and I
have the knowledge to do that.’
“It’s just a matter of finding a job that’s
What is his advice for current students?
“Once you leave
high school don’t stop going to school. Keep going, go on to college if it’s SC4
or another institution just continue on because employers are looking for
someone who has a degree of some sort even if it’s a liberal arts or a general
degree. And don’t just stop going because you get a job but shoot for the stars.
Go for it. Continue in school.”