Additional alumni stories
Love of the sport
Athletics and academics lured Calvin Bassil to SC4
For SC4 alumnus Calvin Bassil, SC4 allowed him to follow his love of athletics into an enjoyable career as sports and events coordinator at the YMCA of the Blue Water Area.
Bassil came to SC4 because of his skills on the ball diamond. He was a three-sport standout for the Cros-Lex Pioneers and was recruited to play baseball for the Skippers. He helped the Skippers finish third in the Michigan Community College Athletic Association standings.
“I had a great experience at SC4,” Bassil said. “I loved it there. The baseball coaches were great, and I had very good professors.”
Bassil received an athletic scholarship to play baseball at Western Illinois University and transferred after a year at SC4. He went on to earn a degree in recreation and parks, along with tourism administration from Western Illinois in the spring of 2011.Calvin Bassil 1
Bassil, of Port Huron, returned home and did an internship with the YMCA of the Blue Water Area. He landed the job as the sports and events coordinator in September 2011.
“I really enjoy working with kids,” Bassil said. “Every six weeks we start up a new set of programs. We are doing a lot with the youth programs and I’m constantly trying to get more programs for the adults going.”
Bassil also finds time to coach ninth-grade girls basketball at Port Huron High School and the junior varsity baseball team at Cros-Lex High School.
The starting point
Now a dentist, Berry’s collegiate journey began at SC4
It was clear the day Devan R. Berry started planning his collegiate career that St. Clair County Community College was in his future.
“My father (Jim) said ‘I don’t care where you go to school, but you’re going to start here (SC4) first,’” Berry, who is now a dentist in New York, said. “I’m glad I went to SC4. I wish I would have stayed longer and took care of more of my pre-med requirements.
“It was a great experience, and I had fabulous teachers. My biology class would have 10 to 20 students in it. At Michigan State, it was nothing to have 500 in a class.”
Berry, 35, said instructors Joe Gibbons, Buzz McNash, Larry Mavis and the late Bob Collins had a big impact on his SC4 experience. The 1998 Port Huron High graduate started taking classes at SC4 during his senior year of high school.
Berry graduated in December of 1999 with two degrees from SC4. His brother, David, also earned an associate degree from SC4.
Following his stay at SC4, Berry transferred to Michigan State University where he earned his BS and his MS in plant pathology. He earned his master’s degree doing field work for three months in Alaska.
Berry returned to Lansing and took courses at Lansing CC to get refreshed in the medical field. He was accepted into dental school at State University of New York-Buffalo. He did a year of general practice residency at the Akron City Hospital in Akron, Ohio.
“My wife Karen had a teaching job with a good salary and benefits in the Lansing area,” Berry said. “So the whole time I was going to dental school in Buffalo I commuted home to Lansing on weekends. It was 350 miles one way.
“Even when I did my residency in Akron, I drove home on weekends to see the family. There were a lot of challenges along the way, but we made it work.”
Berry lives in Farmington, N.Y., less than 10 miles from his dental practice in Livonia, N.Y. He and Karen have two boys – Joseph, 9, and Matthew, 6.
His advice for students?
“Take advantage of the benefits (great professors, small class size, convenient location and scheduling options) of SC4 to create or strengthen your knowledge base! Most credits transfer and are significantly less expensive than four-year colleges and universities. This can facilitate sampling a wide variety of subjects and maybe discovering what excites, motivates and drives you toward a fulfilling lifetime career.”
Watching the Weather
Bird gains confidence at SC4, follows her dream to the National Weather Service
Meagan Bird SC4 gave Meagan Bird a sound start academically and helped her gain the self-confidence she needed to set out and achieve her childhood dream of becoming a meteorologist.
Bird, a former oceanographer for the Navy, is currently working as a meteorologist intern at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Indianapolis.
She says she knew she wanted to be a meteorologist since the sixth grade when they had to keep a weather journal for class. “I remember looking out the window and thinking this is something I am really interested in, I know I can do this.”
She also says SC4 helped her get there. After graduating from Yale High School, she was set to start classes at Central Michigan University but opted at the last minute to attend SC4.
“I wanted to stay closer to home, and being at SC4 eased the financial burden and helped me ease my way into college,” Bird said. “Coming from a small town I wasn’t confident and being at SC4 was my first step into adulthood and learning how the world worked. I pushed myself to do activities and gained self-confidence while there.”
While at SC4, Bird was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa and was active within the club, holding an officer position. She graduated with honors in 2006 and transferred to North Carolina State University where she spent the next several years working toward a bachelor’s degree in meteorology.
After graduation she took a job as an oceanographer at the Naval Oceanographic Office on Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. While there she was the Glider Data Lead and a Lead Glider Pilot.
“A glider looks like a mini airplane or torpedo and is about a meter long and weighs roughly 125 pounds and is autonomous,” she explained. “We would put them in the water all over the world as a way to collect data and we operated these gliders from a room in southern Mississippi.”
Bird said with the Navy she was also able to travel the world and worked out at sea for months at a time but she had the desire to move closer to home. She also felt she would have regrets if she didn’t try to work with the National Weather Service, a place she had always aspired to work.
Her advice to current students? Keep with it and don’t let others detour you from your dreams.
“Sometimes you just won’t be able to get where you need to go until you follow that next opportunity.”
Dr. David Bolla
Boosting morale, one tooth at a time
SC4 puts a smile on local dentist David Bolla
Smiling is serious business to St. Clair County Community College alumnus Dr. David Bolla.
As a dentist, nothing makes Bolla happier than seeing his patients transform not just physically, but emotionally.
“The different people you meet and are able to help, those are the good things,” he said. “It’s being able to help them change cosmetically, and actually seeing personality changes with people thanks to their smile.”
Bolla graduated from SC4 in 1973 with an associate degree in science. He credits his start at SC4 for helping him reach his academic and career goals. Today he co-owns Bolla, Cotter & Associates in Port Huron.
“I chose SC4 because it was close to home. I grew up in St. Clair, and I didn’t think I was ready to go away to college yet.”
What he did know, since the sixth grade, was that dentistry was his path. He spent a few years in braces to straighten his teeth. He realized he wanted to share that boost of self-confidence he felt after seeing his new smile.
“I thought, if I can do this for someone else, this would be a good profession.”SC4 served as the perfect bridge between high school and a university. Bolla went on to earn his bachelor’s of science in zoology from Michigan State University and his doctorate of dental surgery from the University of Michigan. “It worked out really well for me. By the time I was done with SC4, I was ready to go on.”
Bolla also was turned on to dentistry because it meant he could have total control of his future.
“You are your own boss. You can set your own hours, run your own business and be able to help people.”
Bolla and his wife Cynthia live in Port Huron. One of his lifelong hobbies is sailing. Bolla has competed in 37 Port Huron-to-Mackinac Island Sailboat Races. He also enjoys snow skiing, hiking, scuba diving and landscaping.
A member of the American Dental Association and Michigan Dental Association, Bolla also is a lifetime member of the Delta Sigma Delta Dental Fraternity and former president of the Thumb Dental Society.
His advice to new SC4 alumni is to run with their passion. Discover it, and pursue it.
“I’d do the same thing all over again. SC4 was a good starting point.”
Bowerman used Blue Water Middle College Academy to start college while still in high school
When she was entering her junior year of high school, Raya Bowerman made the decision to challenge herself both personally and academically by taking college classes at SC4.
The Jeddo native was afforded that opportunity by the Blue Water Middle College Academy where students in St. Clair County can begin earning college credits while still in high school. Students enroll when entering 11th grade, and spend the next three years taking classes at both their home high school and SC4. There is no cost to the student, as tuition and books are provided by the BWMC.
Bowerman said she learned about the Blue Water Middle College during an information session at her high school, Port Huron Northern.
“I thought it was interesting and a good idea so I went to a seminar with my mom and that’s when I decided to sign up for it,” she said.
Bowerman was part of the first cohort of students at the BWMC, which began in 2011. It is currently in its fifth cohort.
Being a part of the BWMC not only gave Bowerman the advantage of learning how to be a successful college student at a young age, but it also helped her grow and mature.
“I thought it was a great program and it was a good way for me to mature and grow up, because you are in a whole different environment with older students and on a higher level of learning which I liked the challenge of,” she said. “Taking college classes since I was 16, I learned how to study and learned what to do and not to do, so I think the middle college was overall a great experience.”
Matt Ruiz, assistant director of the BWMC, said the program offers much more than free tuition and books.
“The progressive transition from high school to college is important, as it allows students to gradually increase their college workload over a three-year period,” he said. “Another key aspect is the support students receive as they make the transition to full-time college students. The Blue Water Middle College Academy works with parents and SC4 staff to ensure that students have a support network in place to help achieve success at the college level. Raya was a wonderful student, and a great example of how students can benefit from the Blue Water Middle College.”
In addition to being part of the BWMC, Bowerman took on the added responsibility of being a Student Ambassador. In this role, she was paid to give campus tours, help students register for classes and help with the college’s new student orientation among other duties.
“I was on campus a lot and I loved being there so I thought it would be an awesome way to meet new students and show them around and just learn from other people who worked there,” she said. “I think being a student ambassador helped also because I was able to learn more about the college from the information we had to tell students which helped tremendously.”
Bowerman felt her time at SC4 and the BWMC greatly prepared her for her current academic endeavors, which include finishing her associate degree in liberal arts, and working on her pre-requisite courses so she can apply to the Cardiac Stenography program at Baker College of Auburn Hills this spring.
With the help of SC4 academic advisor Matt Zeig, Bowerman said she was able to make her career aspirations a reality.
“I feel like SC4 got me to where I am today,” she said. “I did a job shadow for the radiological technology program at SC4 and I loved it and that’s when I decided to do strictly ultrasound. I learned about how the heart worked and everything it does for you and it amazed me, so that’s why I want to focus on that area. Matt helped me decide where to go by narrowing down schools with me and helped me get to Baker.”
What is Bowerman’s advice to current and future students?
“Take that step and go into the Middle College, or dual enroll, or just go to SC4 in general. It’s a good environment to get your feet wet and figure out what college is like because it’s affordable and close to home and it’s a good experience for getting into the college life. I would advise anyone to go to SC4.”
Small screen success
Tom Brenner takes SC4 education to TV career
A microphone in one hand, Tom Brenner roamed the sidelines at East China Stadium reporting on St. Clair High School football games.
Brenner was a junior at St. Clair in 2004 when he started as an intern/volunteer with CTV/Channel 6 in St. Clair.
But it took some broadcasting classes at St. Clair County Community College to get Brenner, a 2005 St. Clair graduate, really hooked on the profession. And his career has taken off as he has been a producer at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area in San Francisco since July of 2012.
“I’ve always loved sports, and I love television,” Brennan said. “I learned so much from instructors John Hill and Paul Miller during my two years at SC4,” Brenner said. “I got the opportunity to learn from somebody who had been in the business for decades.
“The only thing I had done up until that point was some high school football games. I found out this was something I could make money at and also make a good living.”
“SC4 was a great option for me because it allowed me stay involved at Channel 6 and also take some broadcasting classes,” said Brenner, 27. “I was able to save some money those two years. If had gone off to a four-year school right away I might have gone into something like business.”
Brenner earned his associate degree from SC4 in 2007. He received his bachelor’s degree in broadcast and cinematic arts from Central Michigan University in 2009.
For two summers, Brenner served as an intern at WDIV/Local 4 Detroit. He landed job with WDIV as associate/weekend sports producer in 2010. After a year with WDIV, Brenner packed up and headed to California. He served as a production assistant and associate producer with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area before being named a producer.
Brenner received an Emmy Award in June of 2014 in the Sports One Time Special division. The winning show was 2013: A Year to Remember.
Brenner lives in Oakland, Calif. with his wife, Jessica (formerly DeMand), who was a 2006 St. Clair grad and former SC4 student.
Easing into college
CL5 program allowed Brown to remain comfortable while starting college
George Brown knew he wanted to go to college, but he didn’t feel ready to go to a four-year university right away.
He opted instead for the Croswell-Lexington Early College program which he began his junior year. The program – known to many as CL5 – is open to Croswell-Lexington high school students and is funded by the school district. At the end of five years, students earn their high school diploma and an associate degree from St. Clair County Community College.
“(The CL5 program) allowed me to have a bumper, because I knew I wanted to do something and I could take the most advantage of my time,” Brown said. “It was also super helpful to get credits out of the way and there was little to no cost for the program, which also was a big influence.”
The program allowed Brown to remain in band at his high school, and for his first year he attended classes at Croswell-Lexington College Center, a satellite campus for SC4. As a result Brown doesn’t feel like he missed out on any aspect of high school.
“It didn’t feel any different, I had only been in high school for two years so as far as I know that was an authentic high school experience,” he said. “It wasn’t like high school but it felt attached and that was an important thing for me when transitioning into higher education. CL5 was helpful because it allowed me to test the waters.”
While he was at SC4, Brown mentioned a few teachers who left a lasting impression him, but Cheryl Kaski in particular stood out early on.
“I took basic musicianship with Mrs. Kaski, it was an intro into music theory class, and going in having been a part of the band in high school I knew a lot of things but it was interesting to talk to someone who wasn’t my band director to get a different perspective,” Brown said. “She also influenced me to join choir. She was always so gung ho and super supportive.”
After attending SC4 for a few years, Brown decided to transfer to Western Michigan University. It didn’t take long for him to realize the advantage the CL5 program provided him.
“Community colleges are an affordable option, especially if you don’t know what you want to go into,” he said. “Being at a four-year university you see people spending $2,000 on general education classes they could have gotten out of the way before coming. Now I realize how invaluable the CL5 program is to me and how much time and money I really did save. In my music major it is expected we spend 2 to 3 hours a day practicing, and if I had general education classes to take on top of all of my other commitments I might not be able to do both.”
Brown has decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in secondary education in instrumental music, but said he wishes he would have done more experimenting with classes at SC4.
“I got to Western and took a bunch of music classes and tested the waters with some psychology classes, too,” he said. “I came in trying to pursue a performance degree but I didn’t know if I wanted to play the tuba the rest of my life so I messed around with a business major and figured out in fall 2015 that I wanted to go into music education. I feel much more secure with it. I felt like I was floating when I got here and I didn’t think of the application and how I would feel about the degree in five years, and I feel with music education it’s straight to it, like you are going to teach and I really like having that.”
Brown has a little more time before he completes his degree but he is already thinking about going on to graduate school, and has the goal of becoming a high school band teacher.
What is Brown’s advice for current students?
“Take what you learn and apply it now. I wish I would have known at the time what those skills would mean to me and just paid more attention to what I was learning and started applying it then, because it would have made it easier down the road. Take the time now to do real-world application. I wish I would have thought more about what I wanted to do at SC4 so I could have set myself up better in the future.”
Dr. Jeff Carpenter
Healing in his hometown
Starting at SC4 opened doors for chiropractor Dr. Jeff Carpenter
Like many students, Dr. Jeff Carpenter came to SC4 right out of high school trying to find career direction.
It helped that SC4 was close to his home and affordable.
He knew he was good at science classes, and a career in the health care field was likely. SC4 acted as a bridge between his high school education and his doctorate degree future.
“SC4 gave me a good start. I focused on anatomy and science classes, and it definitely prepared me for the courses that were ahead of me.”
Jeff earned his associate in science degree at SC4 in 1994 and went on to Life University in Marietta, Ga., where he earned his doctorate of chiropractic in 2000.
It was during his time at Life University that Jeff narrowed his focus and discovered his passion for natural healing techniques.
“I was looking to get into health care but I wanted to be independent. Chiropractic was able to allow me to do that,” he said. “I’m into nutrition and natural healing, and I’m better for it.”
It’s the variety of his job at Lakeview Chiropractic in Port Huron that continues to inspire Jeff. From newborns to adults, his patients all require different types of care.
“I change lives every day. A lot of people come to me as a last-ditch effort to fix something that has gone wrong,” he said.
Establishing his career in his hometown has enabled him to keep in touch with professors and friends from SC4. “It’s nice to talk to these people that affected my life, and tell them about it.”
Jeff encourages high schoolers to start at SC4 because it literally pays off.
“It’s more financially responsible to go to SC4 as opposed to a big college where tuition is higher. You want to avoid student loans at all costs,” he said.
SC4 provided Cassady starting point on his way to degree in education
Craig Cassady always knew he wanted to make an impact in his community by becoming a teacher, but choosing which university to attend wasn’t as easy of a decision.
After graduating from Port Huron Northern High School, Cassady, an assistant principal and athletic director at Central Middle School, decided to attend St. Clair County Community College to take the time he needed to make some important decisions.
“After high school, I was still deciding where I wanted to go for a four-year school and if I wanted to play a sport or not,” Cassady said. “I knew I wanted to be a teacher so I decided to take classes at SC4 to head in that direction. SC4 had a good reputation for being able to transfer credits and I’m from Port Huron, so I was able to live at home and I didn’t have to travel very far.”
In addition to being a full-time student, Cassady also coached freshman football and baseball at Northern.
“I was coaching at Northern and a recruiter visited from Albion College and talked me into going out there and visiting,” he said. “I ended up going out there and loved it so I decided to go for school and to play football.”
Cassady said that since he had enjoyed the smaller class sizes and campus at SC4, he was swayed toward Albion as opposed to a bigger school. He said SC4’s reputation for transferable credits also held up.
“Initially when I first registered at SC4 I told them I wanted to be a teacher and they hooked me up with some basic classes. I took a total of eight classes and I got credit for seven of them at Albion, so it was worth it for sure.”
While at Albion, Cassady worked toward his degree in secondary education with a major in history and a minor in political science.
“I enjoyed social studies and it was something I excelled at,” Cassady said. “Outside of my family, my teachers and coaches had the biggest impact on my life and felt I could do the same thing for kids.”
When he applied for graduation at Albion, Cassady found he needed one more class to complete his degree. He was able to take that class at SC4 because it fit Albion’s qualifications.
A few months later Cassady was hired in at Algonac High School where taught for six years. He set his sights on becoming an administrator and elected to attend Marygrove College for his master’s degree.
Cassady has been the assistant principal at both Fort Gratiot and Holland Woods middle schools. He began his position at Central Middle School this past fall
“I felt like it was the logical next step and I wanted to do something more,”Cassady said of becoming an administrator. “I wanted to come back to Port Huron where I grew up and continue to have a further impact. I went from influencing the 150 kids I had in my classroom each day, to 900 kids at Central. I get to directly or indirectly influence them all and I want to do that in a positive way.”
Cassady feels SC4 laid the ground work to help him achieve success at the next level.
“It was my first experience in a college setting and a good transition from high school where you see every teacher every day,” he said. “It puts you in a position to self-manage your time and meet deadlines on your own and be more responsible at a different type of level. (SC4) was a positive experience and I don’t regret it at all. It was definitely what I needed to do right out of high school.”
What is Cassady’s advice to students?
“Even if you don’t know what you want to do or where you want to go, start taking basic classes and work toward a degree. A degree is key to a successful future because whatever career you choose you have to have a college degree nowadays. And don’t wait. The longer you wait the harder it is to go back.”
From passion to career
Cepeda finds success in the world of skateboarding
Cody Cepeda balanced education and “recreation” while a student at SC4.
Cepeda, a 2009 Croswell-Lexington graduate who is making a name for himself in skateboarding, perfected his skills at Pine Grove Park in between attending classes at SC4.
“I went to SC4 for a year and a half,” Cepeda said. “It was nice because I was a few blocks from the park. I would go to my classes and when I had a break I would jump on my skateboard. It probably wasn’t very good for the other students in the class because I would be all sweaty.”
It was his mother, Sally, who encouraged her son to attend SC4 and take business and marketing classes to help him in promoting his skateboarding career.
Cepeda, 24, said he liked his classes with professor Dan McCarty and planned to major in marketing and get a minor in business. Those plans changed when his skateboarding career took off.
He became one of the hottest names in the sport after after he won the Battle at Berrics 7, Pros vs. Joes in June 2014. He dominated the event and defeated professional skateboarder Luan Oliveira in a game of SKATE without missing a trick.
With the victory at the Berrics, he became well-known overnight. He entered the competition as a virtual unknown, with just under 4,000 Instagram followers, and after his winning the finals match streamed live to skate fans across the globe, he gained 50,000 followers and fame.
Cepeda, who got his first skateboard when he was 9, credits his success to his early years in Croswell and Port Huron. He has been to skate parks all over the country and world and still ranks Pine Grove Park as the best.
“I know it wasn’t meant to be a spot for skateboarders when it was built, but there are very good obstacles in the park, especially along the river,” he said. “It’s crazy there at times. You have a ball game going on, the water, bridges, freighters and Canada across the way.”
“When the crew from the magazine Push was filming a feature on me, they wanted to see where I grew up. They went to Croswell and also spent some time at Pine Grove Park. Even though it was the dead of winter and I was freezing, they loved the setting along the water.”
Snow is no longer an issue for Cepeda, who has lived in Los Angeles for the past year. He is now able to train year-round outdoors.
“I love it out here in California. I’m able to skate all day and push myself hard. Plus, all the big names in skateboarding are training here.”
Coming from an athletic family, Cepeda gave up soccer, baseball and basketball as a sixth grader to concentrate solely on skating. It has proved to be a good decision. He is still considered an amateur, but knows he is close to reaching professional status.
“Even though I’m not a professional yet, I know I’m close,” Cepeda said. Age isn’t a factor when it comes to skating. I just have to continue to work hard and everything will fall into place.”
He has simple advice for current SC4 students and for everyone. “Find the activity that drives you and consumes you and pursue it with everything you have.”
A career helping others
Amy Coleman helps to lead The Kresge Foundation
Amy Coleman started her education at SC4, and today helps lead a $3.1 billion private foundation that supports nonprofit organizations in communities across the country and world.
Coleman is vice president of finance and treasurer for The Kresge Foundation in Troy.
“I love what I do; it’s not just a job. It’s a career,” said Coleman, of Macomb Township.
The Kresge Foundation was established in 1924 and supports nonprofit organizations in six fields of interest: arts and culture, community development, education, environment, and health and human services.
Coleman graduated from SC4 in 1988 with an associate degree in business and transferred to Walsh College, where she earned a bachelor of business administration degree in accounting.
The first of seven children in her family to attend college, Coleman said she didn’t know what to expect when she arrived on campus at SC4.
“There was a general overall nervousness. But I started doing well at the work, and I thought the community college was very supportive,” she said. “Making that transition to Walsh was easy. I was very well prepared going in, and SC4 provided a good background.”
Students who want to excel in business or any career must keep their priorities in mind, Coleman said, and they will be able to reach their desired career.
“There are going to be a lot of distractions, so focus on your end goal,” she said. “Use that critical period of time and invest in yourself. You are worth the investment.”
Taking his education overseas
Dan Collins uses education to lead Chinese company
Focusing on a college education and expanding his horizons prepared SC4 alumnus Daniel Collins to be president of Anda Industries Co. Ltd., in China.
Anda is an automotive brake parts supplier in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, China, about 2½ hours south of Shanghai. There, Collins oversees more than 1,000 employees.
Collins grew up in Port Huron and graduated from Port Huron High School. He attended SC4 from 1991 to 1993. “I wasn’t ready to go to a university,” he said. “That’s why I came to SC4 to focus on my first two years.”
His career direction came more into focus by talking to his mentor at SC4, Professor Dr. Roy Rogers. That’s when he started to consider a career in business in China. He transferred to Michigan State and became an exchange student at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Collins has worked in China since 1997. He worked seven years for General Motors and then for three years at Trico Products, an automotive parts supplier, before moving on to Anda.
Collins said the pace of business in China is incredible. He said it can take as little as six months to turn a bare field into a fully operational manufacturing facility, and he doesn’t see growth slowing anytime soon.
He lives in China with his wife and children. Collins said living in China is like living in New York City because of the size of the cities and the large international population.
Collins’ advice for SC4 students is to follow what worked for him: Get an education and explore job possibilities wherever they are located.
“Acquire a skill that is marketable and continually educate yourself,” he said. “And, go outside and get a different perspective.”
More about Dan
Dan Collins earned his bachelor of business administration degree from Michigan State and his master of business administration from Rutgers University.
Evans: I want to protect people
SC4 alum an officer with Dallas Police Dept.
On the night of Thursday, July 7, Melanie Evans was off duty.
The SC4 alumna and police officer with the Dallas Police Dept. was watching television and received a text from a friend who had heard about the shooting which had targeted her fellow officers, killing five and wounding nine others.
“I was halfway out the door,” Evans said of her reaction when she heard the news before she was told to wait for her next shift to start before reporting to work.
In the days since the attack, Evans said there’s been a mixture of support shown for the officers in Dallas, and vitriol. But the good is outweighing the bad.
“Our city has definitely come together more now than it has,” she said. “The support we got from one another was great. You couldn’t walk into any station without getting a giant hug from an officer.”
Evans went to Dallas in 2012 after graduating from SC4 with an associate degree in criminal justice. Her plan was to work there for five years and start looking for work near her hometown of Port Huron. As that time frame nears its end, however, things have changed.
“I didn’t plan on meeting someone and building a house here,” she said.
Evans also said the attack on her department has strengthened her will to continue serving the Dallas community. Serving is something she always had her eye on.
“I wanted to be in the Marines,” she said. “My mom kind of didn’t want me going that route. My best friend went into the Marines, but I decided to protect from home.”
“I just like people. I want to protect them and make sure nothing happens to them.”
Living out a dream
Former Skipper golfer Mitchell Fernandez lands job at Oakmont Country Club
Mitchell Fernandez wasn’t sure if he wanted to pursue a career in golf or hockey when he graduated from Port Huron Northern in 2009.
So Fernandez decided to juggle both sports as a student-athlete at St. Clair County Community College for three years.
While his passion for hockey remains, the 24-year-old is entrenched in the golf world. He was recently hired as a PGA apprentice by Oakmont Country Club and began his new job Feb. 1.
“It’s been a whirlwind year and a half to two years for me,” Fernandez said. “It’s been crazy. From working with Brian Bowman (former Skipper golfer) at the (Port Huron) Elks Club, to spending time at Iverness Club in Toledo to getting the job at Oakmont.
“I wouldn’t have dreamed in a million years that I would have the opportunity to work at a place like Oakmont.”
Oakmont, which is the host for the 2016 U.S. Open this summer, is located about 12 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
“I’m going to start out in the East U.S. Open golf shop while it is cold outside,” Fernandez said. “I will be a utility guy… working in the pro shop, with the junior golf program, outside on the grounds and caddying.
“I’ll get a chance to do a lot of different things and I’m excited about that.”
Fernandez, who graduated from the California University of Pennsylvania with a degree in sports management, said he was scheduled to start at the prestigious club this spring, but received a call to begin work earlier.
While at SC4, Fernandez golfed for coach Dale Vos in the spring of 2010. He took a year off from the college team to concentrate on playing hockey for the Port Huron Fighting Falcons, a member of the North American Hockey League.
Fernandez returned to the golf team in 2012 and qualified for the National Junior College Athletic Association national tournament.
“It was a great experience at SC4,” Fernandez said. “I enjoyed my classes and professors. The people there were very helpful. I had the chance to meet some great people like coach Vos.”
Following his career with the Skippers and Falcons, Fernandez transferred to the California University of Pennsylvania where he played hockey for two years. He said he also wanted to golf at the school but the golf coach would not allow him to play both sports.
Fernandez, who is engaged to Alanna Marie Trosky of Pittsburgh, is taking the PGA apprenticeship program online.
His advice to students:
“SC4 is just the start to your life journey. You have to work hard and believe in yourself and you can accomplish anything that you put your mind to. Don’t just strive to be good in life, strive to be great. Follow your own path and you will be successful, All of this might sound cliché, but it is the truth.”
Randy Fernandez helps grow city of Marysville
SC4 wasn’t just a bridge for Randy Fernandez to transfer to a four-year university.
The college also was an opportunity for Fernandez, now Marysville’s city manager, to meet new people from across the area.
“It was going to a new environment. It’s more of a melting pot, where I got to meet kids from downriver and Canada,” said Fernandez, who lived in Port Huron at the time.
“We are blessed to have a community college in our back yard,” Fernandez said. “I wasn’t ready after high school. I was ready after the two years at SC4.”
Fernandez earned his associate of arts degree from SC4 in 1976. He went on to get his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and his master of arts in management and supervision from Central Michigan University in 1985.
And although he attended two universities after SC4, it’s the close-knit feel that makes him proud to have started at a community college.
“My allegiance is with SC4,” said Fernandez.
More about Randy: Randy was named the Alumnus of the Year in December 2018.
From SC4 to Seattle
Former Skipper Fry wins Mariners’ Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year Award
Paul Fry has made quite an impression on the Seattle Mariners’ coaching staff the past two summers.
The pitcher from Waterford was selected in the 17th round of the 2013 Major League Baseball draft out of SC4.
The left-handed pitcher took a major step in his development this season. He was recently named the Mariners’ Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. He traveled to Seattle and picked up his award Sunday, Oct. 4, at the Mariners’ 2015 regular-season finale.
Last season at Class A Bakerfield, Fry made 38 relief appearances and posted a 4-4 won-loss record with a 2.71 ERA.
Fry was a late add to the Mariners’ mini-camp this spring and made the most of it, impressing coaches and appearing in a handful of Cactus League games.
Fry moved up two levels this season. He started the season with Class A Bakersfield and had success in the hitter-friendly Cal League. Fry made 28 appearances, posting a 4-3 record with two saves, a 2.13 ERA, 70 strikeouts in 55 innings with just 14 walks. Opponents were batting .230 against him.
The solid performance earned Fry a promotion to Class AA Jackson where he went 0-2 with a 2.50 ERA in 15 appearances. He recorded 30 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched.
After a couple of tough outings, Fry adapted to the higher competition. In his last 10 outings, he had three saves and a 0.87 ERA, allowing one run in 10 1/3 innings.
Fry pitched two seasons for the Skippers and earned all-Michigan Community College Athletic Association honors.
Fry made his MLB debut on June 29, 2018. He finished the season 1-2 with 2 saves in 35 games.
A fresh start in a growing field
Hall found new career after completing SC4’s HIT program
After leaving a career in customer service, Tammy Hall set her sights on working in health care. She just wasn’t so sure about certain parts of the field.
“I was starting in the nursing program,” the Fort Gratiot resident said. “I’m not too keen on people’s bodily fluids, so I knew I had to do something else.”
Thankfully, Hall was able to find a home in St. Clair County Community College’s health information technology program. She graduated from the program in December of 2014, and works as an inpatient and outpatient medical coder for Physician HealthCare Network in Port Huron.
“Health care will never go away,” Hall said. “It’s always going to be there, and you’re guaranteed, pretty much, employment wherever you go.”
Hall recently passed her Registered Health Information Technician exam, something she was able to take after SC4’s health information technology program became accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education.
In her new career, Hall said she deals with patient records, making sure they’re accurate and in order.
She said the program at SC4 was difficult in the early going, but she soon began to understand not just what she was learning, but how important it was for the health care industry.
“It’s a necessity in the health care field, and we need more people in it,” Hall said. “I would recommend it to anyone that wants to go into the health care field, but doesn’t want to be on the (clinical) side. It’s a very rewarding program.”
Carrie Heidemann Charlick
SC4 helped alumna Carrie Heidemann Charlick turn an idea into millions
Self-confidence and a solid business education have helped SC4 alumna Carrie Heidemann Charlick turn a bright idea into a multimillion-dollar company.
Charlick of West Bloomfield is chief executive officer of Essential Bodywear, a company she cofounded in 2003 with business partner and company President Marcia Negro.
The business began with $500 contributed by Charlick and Negro. Today, Essential Bodywear has grown to $4.7 million in annual sales.
Charlick was raised in Port Huron and chose SC4 because it was close to home. She earned her associate degree in marketing in 1987. SC4 introduced her to valuable business concepts and she was inspired by the entrepreneurship attitude.
“I never want to look back and say, ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda,’” she said.
Essential Bodywear’s mission is to revolutionize the way women buy bodywear. “We started with an idea of bringing bra shopping and underwear shopping to home parties,” Charlick said.
Charlick said SC4 students and graduates should jump at opportunities and have confidence in their decisions.
“If you see a need and you think you can fill it, go for it,” she said. “Move forward. Take a chance. With the job market we have right now, entrepreneurship is a great option.”
Essential Bodywear is headquartered in Oakland County’s Commerce Township and employs 14 office staff. The business has close to 500 representatives throughout the United States selling products through in-home parties.
Essential Bodywear has been featured on the Today Show and in several publications including Glamour, Women’s Wear Daily and Crain’s Detroit Business.
Higgins: ‘SC4 is a gem’
High school counselor’s path to career in education started at SC4
St. Clair County Community College not only provided Lisa Higgins with a place to grow personally and academically, it was also the place she started her career in education.
Higgins, a counselor at St. Clair High School and resident of St. Clair, came to SC4 in 1985 because she was undecided and wanted to save money while she explored various classes.
“I started out my first semester taking a business class because I thought I might have an interest in business, and an ED 101 course because I had an interest in teaching,” she said. “After the first semester I found my real interests were in the area of education. I had to have so many hours experience working with school-aged kids as part of the class, and it was through that experience that made me want to pursue education.”
Higgins played for the women’s basketball team at SC4, and was on the forensics and debate team, led by Jim Voss.
“I remember it really helped me learn how to manage my time and I remember it being a great experience,” she said. “I was able to travel around the state with the (basketball) team and build friendships with people I may not have gotten to know otherwise.”
After Higgins graduated in 1987 with her associate of arts, she attended Central Michigan University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in education, majoring in English and minoring in speech and dramatic arts.
While back at SC4 requesting her transcripts, Higgins ran into Voss.
“I shared with him that I was graduating and he said there actually happened to be a position open for a part-time speech instructor at an off-campus program, the Sanilac Career Center,” she said. “So my very first teaching job was actually through SC4.”
The course was a college class taught to high school students and Higgins said it was a great experience and felt it was the résumé boost she needed to help her get a job in the East China School District.
She taught one year at Marine City Middle School and then transferred to St. Clair High School where she worked for four years teaching English and Public Speaking. She earned a Master’s degree in counseling at Wayne State University, and has been a counselor at the high school for 21 years.
In her current position Higgins is able to work individually with students and help them plan for college.
“From where I sit now in my job as a counselor – where I learn about community colleges and four-year universities across the state, and the pros and cons for each of them – I feel like SC4 is a gem we have in our community,” she said. “It reminds me of a private college because of its size, and even the physical layout of the school and also the class sizes and connections you can make. It might not be for all students but for some coming out of high school who aren’t ready for the big jump to a big university, and not just academically but emotionally, SC4 is a nice little landing spot.”
Higgins said her son is following in her footsteps and also attends SC4 where he is involved in the theater program.
“He is a lot like mom and wasn’t sure what direction he wanted to go in career wise,” she said. “He is taking some time to explore different classes without spending a whole lot of money.”
Her advice to students?
“I think students tend to just drop in for a class and leave and they don’t really take time to make connections with instructors and meet other students,” Higgins said. “You just never know how the connections you make there could benefit you later on. The experience I got with the forensics team and getting to know Mr. Voss helped me get that initial job that got me started in my career in education.”
A quick study
Jex came to SC4 with a plan and left on a fast-track to a degree and career
Meagan Jex knew what she wanted to do when she came to St. Clair County Community College in the fall of 2008.
By the fall of 2009, she was on her way to Central Michigan University, several easily transferable credits in hand, and on a fast-track in her major of choice.
“I knew that I was only going to SC4 for a year, and I knew I wanted to go to Central after that,” Jex said. “(Advisor) Scott Watson helped me create a schedule that would satisfy the MACRAO transfer agreement.
“I feel like I was ahead of the game when I was at Central, because I could go right into taking those classes that I needed for my major.”
Jex, who is the SC4 Alumni of the Month for September, is a speech and language pathologist at Eddy and Gearing elementary schools in the East China School District.
“I work with students (from kindergarten to fifth grade) on a variety of things,” Jex, a graduate of Yale High School said. “The majority of the students on my caseload have articulation disorders or language impairments, and I try to help them communicate better by improving their speech sound inventories and overall language skills.”
This is Jex’s second year in East China, as she served in a similar role the year before at St. Clair High School and Pine River Elementary School.
“I actually really enjoyed both age levels,” she said. “I connect with both of them, even though there’s a big age difference… It’s extremely rewarding.”
Jex, who earned a bachelor’s of applied arts in communication disorders and a master’s of arts in speech language pathology from Central Michigan, said she recommends starting your college journey at SC4. The Michigan Transfer Agreement (which has replaced MACRAO), gives students a path to the fast-track Jex found herself on.
“Anybody that I talk to, I always recommend going to SC4 first,” she said. “It saved me a ton of money, I was able to stay at home and work, and I didn’t have to take (general education) classes when I went to Central.”
Life of laughter
Kearns’ journey toward comedy, acting started at SC4
Eric Kearns may be working in California doing stand-up comedy and improv shows, but St. Clair County Community College was where he learned the basics about acting.
The North Hollywood, California resident and graduate of Marysville High School decided to attend SC4 in 2006 at the urging of his mom.
“My mom was working there at the time and she thought it would be a smart decision to start off at a community college since I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said. “It ended up being exactly what I needed because I was able to test out different classes.”
One of those classes was an improvisation class taught by Rich Goteri. That class turned out to be the catalyst for Kearns’ acting career.
“I would go to the class and just be in shock that I was able to earn college credit for it because it was so much fun,” he said. “That was when I really started enjoying acting and decided to go down that path.”
Kearns began auditioning for the plays on campus and landed multiple roles including the part of Uncle Billy in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and Remnar in Jeff Daniels’ “Escanaba in da Moonlight.”
Kearns said performing “Escanaba in da Moonlight” at SC4 was one of his most memorable acting experiences.
“It was the first comedy I ever did, and people were in tears watching us on stage,” Kearns said. “It was a really cool experience and it was what made me want to put the pedal to the ground and pursue comedy.”
Kearns earned an associate of arts degree from SC4 in 2008 and then transferred to University of Michigan-Flint where he continued to be involved in theater while he earned his bachelor’s in fine arts.
After graduation, a friend offered Kearns a place to live in North Hollywood, California, and he decided to pack up his car and drive out there.
“There were many more opportunities for me to pursue in California, especially in the comedy world, so I jumped at the opportunity,” Kearns said.
In California, Kearns performs improv and stand-up comedy on a regular basis including every Sunday at a place called Comedy Sportz.
“It’s comedy played as a sport where you have a red and blue team and we get suggestions from the audience and we play improv games against each other for points,” he said. “Performing at Comedy Sportz was what really helped me get into stand-up, I met a guy there named Tom Clark who recently did stand-up on the Conan O’Brien show and he teaches classes. I signed up for a couple and I really am liking doing standup a lot.”
Kearns said he also joined the Story Pirates Company which is a children’s theater that Conan O’Brien and Jon Stewart have been linked to.
“Kids write stories and send them into us and we go to their schools and act out their story in front of them,” he said. “It is a really cool experience. They write the craziest stories.”
Kearns said he wants to continue to focus his career on comedy because he loves to make people laugh. His ultimate goal is to work on a successful sitcom.
“Seeing everyone smile and have a good time makes me feel good about myself and knowing I’m helping others have a good time makes me want to keep doing comedy.”
His advice to students?
“Do what you love and keep going with it, and enjoy everything you have in your life.”
Serving her community
Port Huron Police Officer Marcy Kuehn takes leadership role
Marcy Kuehn remembers sitting through her first criminal justice class at St. Clair County Community College.
“It was intimidating,” said Kuehn, a 1989 Marysville High School graduate. “First of all, I wasn’t use to classes going an hour and a half long. But I really enjoyed it. From that first day, I was hooked.
Kuehn earned her associate degree in criminal justice in 1993. She said her career direction classes kept coming up criminal justice. It has turned out to be a very rewarding career.
“It took me four years to get my degree, but I was working three jobs and going to school. I would have loved to go off and enjoy college life. But the beauty of it was everything I needed was right here.”
In April 2014, she was promoted to lieutenant with the Port Huron Police Department. She is the first female lieutenant in the history of the department.
“I was part of the cadet program at the Port Huron Police Department when I was going to SC4,” Kuehn said. “It was great. In class, you would learn how to handle a police accident and get to do it a few hours later at work.
“I had the opportunity to work with Officer Diana Tramski at the police department. She was a great mentor to me, and just an awesome role model.”
After graduating from SC4, Kuehn worked the night shift with the police department and took classes at Eastern Michigan University. She earned her bachelor’s in criminal justice at Eastern.
Kuehn also stayed close to home for her master’s degree in science and administrative communication leadership at Central Michigan University. She attended master’s classes through the SC4 University Center on campus.
Kuehn and her husband, Mark Caza, live in Marysville with their three children, Troy, Taylor, and Tyler.
Forging his own path
SC4 prepares Jim Langolf to run a successful business
Even as a young man, Jim Langolf knew he wanted to own a business someday.
But after graduating from Port Huron High School in 1980, he wasn’t sure of his next move. A trumpet player in the high school band, he spent much of his time playing music and considered himself just an average student.
It was at St. Clair County Community College that he learned he could follow his passions and still succeed academically. In his first semester, he earned a 4.0 grade point average.
“That semester really awakened me,” said Langolf, who lives in Port Huron Township. “It was like a light bulb went on.”
He continued to succeed during the remainder of his time at SC4. He also followed his love for music into the SC4 Jazz Band.
While attending SC4, he worked part time at the local jewelry store where his father, Alex, worked. That job turned out to be more than just a way to earn extra money. The skills he learned there would help him realize his goal. Years later, Langolf and his father would go into business together and open Alexander Fine Jewelers.
After graduating from SC4, Langolf transferred to Anderson University in Indiana and studied history and music performance, graduating with honors.
He credits SC4 with preparing him to succeed. “For me to go away to a four-year college right after high school would have been a disaster,” he said. “After SC4, I was much more prepared.”
Langolf returned to Port Huron after college and took a job doing software support for a local company. “That taught me a lot about customer service,” he said. “I learned how to make friends with people no matter how frustrated they were.”
He also took one more class at SC4. His wife, Dawn, was taking accounting and wanted company. Like his job at the jewelry store, that class would prove to be more valuable than he realized.
“I literally have used what I learned in that class every day of my life for the last 20 years.”
In 1993, he and his father decided it was time to make their dream a reality. They opened Alexander Fine Jewelers in downtown Port Huron.
“I always envisioned the two of us opening our own jewelry store. We went for it.”
The jewelry store, which moved to a new location in Fort Gratiot three years ago, is celebrating its 20th anniversary in April.
“It really is a joy to help people celebrate significant moments in their lives,” he said.
He and his wife are co-presidents of the Port Huron High School Band Boosters. Their son Jeffrey, an 11th-grader, is a drum major. They also have two daughters. Emily is in eighth grade and Kristen is studying to be a teacher at Anderson University.
Langolf and his business are proud to support the SC4 Alumni Association and give back to the school that gave him his start. “I am proud to have an associate degree from SC4 on my resume,” he said. “SC4 gives a lot of families educational options that they wouldn’t otherwise have.”
Back to where it all began
Laskowski returns to SC4 to give students same great education he received
When Eric Laskowski completed his bachelor’s degree, he knew he wanted to come back to St. Clair County Community College, but in a much different role.
“I enjoyed being a student at the college and when I saw there was an opportunity for an adjunct position I figured I would apply for it because it would be my opportunity to give back to the college that gave me my start,” he said.
In addition to teaching computer information systems at SC4, Laskowski, of Riley Township, works for Schwab Industries as an IT Manager where he spends his day doing various tasks, ranging from network administration to fixing a broken mouse.
Laskowski knew he was going to pursue a degree involving computers when he graduated from Memphis High School, and said he started classes at SC4 in 2002 because it was the closest and the most cost effective school in the area.
In the three years he was at the college, Laskowski earned both a computer information systems applications degree and the computer information systems networking degree.
“I chose these degrees because I thought they would offer me the most flexibility in the IT industry,” he said. “I ended up only having to take one more semester worth of classes to finish up both degrees at the same time because the classes were in alignment.”
The computer classes at SC4 offered Laskowski hands on training, which he feels greatly prepared him for work at the next level.
“We got to experience doing things first hand and not just reading a book,” he said “It’s a credit to the instructors, they have extensive knowledge of what they are teaching and I have to attribute a lot of the knowledge I gained from them.”
Laskowski credits computer information systems instructor Carol DesJardins in particular with helping him achieve his academic goals at SC4.
“I had so many of her classes and she offered a lot of her knowledge to me because she knew I was a student who cared,” he said. “We built a strong student/teacher relationship; where she knew she could help point me in the right direction and I would be receptive.”
Laskowski is now in a position to make a similar impact on students in his CIS 115 Microcomputer Applications class where he teaches students how to use programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
“I enjoy it immensely because I have the ability to give students a perspective on what the industry is like,” he said. “I teach the common uses for programs and I can bring in real-life examples and give them the opportunity to see where and how they will use these programs.”
Laskowski is also active in SC4’s Symphonic Band which he joined while in high school, nearly 15 years ago.
What is Laskowski’s advice to students?
“Keep moving forward and don’t give up,” he said. “Don’t let other things get in the way of your education. There is plenty of help available at SC4 for any student who needs it; be it help with classes, tutoring or the financial assistance side of things. With how important it is to get a degree, it’s important to keep moving forward regardless of what bumps you hit.”
Prepared to succeed
SC4’s radiologic technology program had Light ready for the workforce
Regina Light, a mother of three with a husband in the Coast Guard, used the word blur to describe the past four years.
She began at SC4 in 2012 after transferring from a community college in Washington. By 2015 she had not only graduated Suma Cum Laude with associate degrees in radiologic technology and science, she also had a job waiting for her as a radiologic technologist at McLaren Hospital of Port Huron.
Light said it was a seamless transition from student to employee, and she attributes this to the strong education she received at SC4 and how director Monica Rowling structures her program.
“They told us right away this is more than clinical time, this is a two-year job interview so do the best you can,” Light said. “You start out under very close supervision but at the end of two years you are expected to be able to perform exams independently, know the flow of the department and know where you fit into the team. Everyone is always nervous when you get your first patient and no one is watching you, but I didn’t feel nervous at all because I felt prepared to do what I had been trained to do.”
Light said the program at SC4 is unique because of the multiple clinical sites which give students exposure to different machines and equipment, as well as exposure to diverse settings and paces of work which she feels provides a well-rounded experience.
“Some people get a year into it and decide it’s not what they want to do and then they move on,” Light said. “People don’t expect it to be that difficult. They think ‘It’s just X-rays; you are just there pushing a button and taking a picture,’ but it’s not. You have science and physics behind it and if you’re not willing to put hard work behind that, regardless if you have nice patient skills, you aren’t going to make it.”
Light’s advice to current students?
“Work hard, don’t give up and enjoy it even when it seems tough or difficult, because those moments are what will make and break you.”
Making a difference
Loane balances family life and school to find a rewarding career as a nurse
For some students choosing a degree is the most difficult aspect of college, but for Ashley Loane, of Marysville, becoming a nurse has always been her purpose in life.
“I always felt that being a nurse was what I was supposed to do,” Loane said. “The ability to make a difference in someone’s life is very rewarding. Nursing is such a noble, selfless career, and with all the specialties, the possibilities are endless.”
Loane chose the nursing program at SC4 because of its great reputation for producing talented nurses. As she says, “If you have one of best programs in town, why would you leave and go to a mediocre program?”
In 2008 she was accepted into the LPN program and a year later completed her certificate and graduated with honors. She went on to be accepted into the LPN to RN articulation program and in 2012 graduated again, with honors.
She currently works in McLaren Port Huron’s Intensive Care Unit as an RN, but that isn’t her end goal. She is in the final stages of completing her masters of science in nursing with a dual certificate for family nurse practitioner at Frontier Nursing University.
While knowing her career goals early on came easy to her, getting there wasn’t without its challenges. While Loane was completing the courses necessary to apply to the LPN program, she had her son, returning to school when he was two weeks old. She went on to plan her wedding in the middle of completing the LPN program and then had her daughter during the articulation program.
When asked how she balanced her schooling and a family she said, “there is a quote that I saw a long time ago that always stuck with me. It said to take out the excuses and replace it with the statement ‘it’s not a priority’ and see if you can change your ways. For example, if you think ‘I can’t go to school’ and replace that with ‘school isn’t a priority.’ If it’s a priority you’re always going to find a way.”
Loane said having a support system was important in helping her achieve her academic success and credits SC4 with giving her lasting relationships including her mentors. “SC4 gave me the greatest gift possible by introducing me to my two amazing mentors, Kathy Peace and Sara Kiell, who are still in my life,” she said.
“Even as my education has carried me on to graduate school they have been my lifelong mentors. Talking to them always takes me back to why I started in the first place and their passion for nurses and their profession spills over into their students. I will forever be grateful for having such amazing women in my life, who have taught me much more than just nursing.”
Peace, a professor of nursing in the LPN program, said she remembers Loane to be very cheerful and energetic in class and felt she was someone who could light up any room. “Ashely always did her best, she was so empathetic to her patients and it is so rewarding to see students like her become successful.”
Loane encourages all students to find a mentor similar to what she found in Peace and Kiell. “When you do you cling to them and you don’t ever let them go,” she said. “Coming right out of school you second guess yourself and it’s so nice to have someone to ask questions of without feeling intimidated.”
Her advice for SC4 students is to find family and friends to hold you accountable. “Share your goals with everyone because you’re less likely to find an excuse to give up. The more people who know, the more it will burn a motivation inside of you that will make you want to keep and achieve your goals.”
Degree from SC4 helped Lukasak get back into the workforce
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.
While working 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 mechatronics.
“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.
Lukasak 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 and patience.
“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.”
In 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 there. “
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 applicable.”’
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.”
Lynch returned to SC4 after more than a decade to pursue a new, fulfilling career
Kristie Lynch had an associate degree from SC4 that she wasn’t using and 14 years of factory work on her résumé when she decided to change her professional life.
“While I was in the factory, I decided I didn’t want to work there, I wanted to work with kids,” said Lynch, who earned an associate degree in early childhood education in 1992. “I started going back to school to get the corrections degree. I would have never got on the career path I’m on now without the degree. I really love my job.”
Lynch, a Clyde Township resident and Port Huron High School graduate, earned her second associate degree – in corrections – in 2011, and finished her bachelor’s degree on the SC4 campus, taking classes through Ferris State University in the SC4 University Center.
All of her degrees are paying dividends as Lynch is an at-risk youth worker in the St. Clair County Day Treatment Night Watch program, where she’s been since 2013. Prior to that, Lynch interned with St. Clair County Juvenile Probation, and worked for about one year at the St. Clair County Juvenile Center before it closed.
“I just wanted to do something where I could help somebody,” she said. “(The Day Treatment Night Watch program) is an awesome program for kids that are having difficulties in school and legal issues. It’s a great program because it focuses on getting kids an education, and helping them with whatever different things they’re going through.
“I like working with the kids, and I get to work with them in a school setting and in a home setting.”
Part of Lynch’s job is to give advice to the students she works with, but much of that advice could be helpful to most any student.
“The first thing they say is, ‘I don’t know what I want to do,’” she said. “My first reply to that is, ‘You’ve got at least a year. Don’t panic. Take your English 101s – get the basics out of the way. Then go talk with a college counselor.”
Passing on a passion for learning
McIntyre teaching kindergartners the importance of education
Erin McIntyre’s passion for education didn’t stop when she earned degrees from St. Clair County Community College and Saginaw Valley State University.
McIntyre, a kindergarten teacher at Thomas Edison Elementary School in Fort Gratiot, continues to use her love of learning by forming the minds of children in our community every day.
“I teach my little ones, ‘You are going to college, it will happen, but you have to work for it,’” McIntyre said. “You can do so much with a college education and I feel it gives you a more secure life because no matter what happens you will always have a degree to fall back on. I’m trying to make this generation see that nothing should stop them from an education.”
McIntyre said the importance of a college education was instilled in her by her parents at a young age and she decided to start her education at SC4 in 2000 favoring the smaller more intimate experience the institution offered.
“I wanted to stay in town to figure out what I wanted to do,” she said. “When I first started at SC4 I wanted to go into social work and it wasn’t until after my first semester, when I began working at the YMCA with school-aged children, that I realized I wanted to purse teaching. I was able to change my degree and still stay at SC4 because the college offered so many options.”
McIntyre took advantage of the partnership between SC4 and SVSU where she was able to stay on SC4’s campus and earn a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education with minors in Social Studies and English from SVSU, as well as an Associates of Arts from SC4. Attending college near home also allowed her to save money on tuition and work while pursuing her degree.
“It was a big benefit that I could take so many classes on SC4’s campus and I liked that the class sizes were small. The professors knew who you were and it was especially nice when you got to know the people going on the same path as you,” she said. “There was a comfort level to being in classes at SC4.”
McIntyre said she enjoys shaping the lives of our youth and feels her role as a teacher provides her with the opportunity to not only inspire her students but also be a positive role model.
“So many of these kids need someone who loves them even when they make mistakes,” she said. “They need someone who teaches them to push through their mistakes by problem solving and using self-reflection because those are skills they will need their whole lives.”
McIntyre feels there are many similarities to the life lessons she is teaching her kindergarten students that college students are also experiencing.
“My little ones are branching out into something brand new, just like college students are. With my kindergartners I’m teaching them the most basic things like reading and they can use that skill to pursue a love of learning,” she said. “This all correlates to when they go to college because they will have to have that same passion to learn new things and that starts with the foundation they build as a child. It is why school is so important and reciprocal, at different points you are starting a different branch of your life, but one can’t exist without the other.”
What is McIntyre’s advice to current students?
“Be patient with yourself and know that it does take time to decide first what you want to do and then see it through to fruition; where you step in the door of that first job after graduation,” she said. “I had to have so much patience’s to get to where I am today. At one point I thought I am never going to get a job, but I held out hope knowing it would come. I love what I do and I wouldn’t change the time it took to get here for anything.”
Ready to work
Metheny said SC4 prepared her for a career in accounting
When she started at St. Clair County Community College, Shelby Metheny knew she wanted to go into business.
A class with then professor Julie Armstrong confirmed her feelings.
“I had always been on that path and really wanted to do the (Certified Public Accountant) thing,” Metheny said. “Once I got into Mrs. Armstrong’s class she was really big on telling us real-life stories about what she had done. That’s what made me really interested in it, when she would tell those real-life stories.”
Metheny graduated from SC4 in 2014 and transferred to Walsh College. She still has three classes remaining to finish her bachelor’s degree in accounting processes, but she has already secured a full-time job as an accounting specialist at ZF Friedrichshafen in Marysville. The St. Clair High School graduate had a pair of internships with ZF, working in materials and accounting before being elevated to full-time status on Dec. 5, 2016.
“I was very lucky to have that opportunity,” she said. “I found the materials internship on SC4 Job Connect.”
Metheny said she has several tasks at ZF working with multiple departments. It’s something she said SC4 helped prepare her for.
“Teachers always put a lot of confidence in me,” Metheny said, specifically mentioning professor Michael Belleman and Armstrong, who is now the Dean of Occupational Studies at SC4. “I loved how Mr. Belleman would always call on us in class. At first it was terrifying, but it really helped because you had to know your stuff. Now my boss is kind of like that. She puts you on your own and gives you a chance to prove yourself. She always says either you sink or you swim. Mr. Belleman always prepared me for that.”
From SC4 to the stage
Alex Meyer enjoys life in the theatre
Alex Meyer was hoping to pursue a career in music when he graduated from Port Huron High School in 2007.
That all changed when Meyer attended SC4.
“My career goal was in music,” said Meyer, a current graduate student studying theatrical stage management at the University of California, Irvine. “I still love music, but now I really have a passion for the theatre.
“Those years at SC4, I got into arts classes and even took piano lessons. I started to hang around with the theatre folks. I became very active in the drama club.
“The staff at the college sort of lit a fire under me. They helped me explore different things and were very supportive.”
Meyer, 26, credits “good friend and old mentor” Tom Kephart for helping him grow as a student during his years at SC4. He said he also enjoyed working with instructors Buzz McNash and Jim and Patricia Frank.
Meyer dual-enrolled at SC4 during his senior year of high school. He transferred after two years at SC4 to Western Michigan University.
“The dual enrollment was very good for me,” Meyer said. “Starting college can be a bit scary. It helped soften the transition from high school to college.”
Meyer has two years remaining in graduate school at UC Irvine. He is busy this summer working with the New Swan Shakespeare Festival.
“I’m about an hour southeast of Los Angeles,” Meyer said. “It’s a little too hot for me living in the desert. Hopefully, I can end up back in the Midwest like Chicago or Detroit or maybe even somewhere like Washington, D.C.
“I want to work in a community-based theatre. I want to be in a theatre that has dialogue and helps people.”
Meyer said it’s important for incoming freshmen to get involved in clubs and ask for help if they are passionate about something.
“If you don’t ask the question, the answer is always no,” Meyer said. “If you’re excited about something, tell somebody and they can help you get the ball rolling.”
Finding his voice
RadioFirst program manager discovered love of radio at SC4
When it comes to radio there are two types of people: those who think radio is cool and those who love radio. Sean Michaels loves radio.
The Port Huron resident has been a long running morning show DJ at 96.9 WBTI and was recently promoted to program manager at RadioFirst. After graduating from Lutheran High School West in Detroit, however, broadcasting wasn’t even on his radar.
Being a self-proclaimed movie buff, Michaels opted to attend Northern Michigan University to pursue a degree in cinematography with the hope of becoming a movie director.
“I felt like I was very unprepared to go to college, and was disillusioned with the major,” Michaels said. “I didn’t really feel the classes and program were inspiring and I never gave any thought to anything else that I wanted to do. So I was wandering aimlessly for about two years before I left because I had no direction.”
Michaels moved to Peck where he lived with his parents and worked at a pizzeria for five years.
“I decided that wasn’t my best career option and I gave it some real thought,” he said. “I picked up a book on classes from SC4 and I was wandering through it and saw a broadcasting class and I thought, ‘Radio. I have a gift for gab,’ and said, ‘Why not? Let’s go back to school.’”
Michaels started at St. Clair County Community College in 1992 and began pursuing his associate degree in broadcasting.
When he wasn’t in class, Michaels was hanging out at WSGR, the college’s radio station with other students in the program who he said became like family to him.
After a year of classes Michaels finally got his chance to go on air and broadcast a Sunday night oldies show on WSGR.
“I remember I had one month of time on WSGR and John Hill – then the head of the (SC4 broadcasting) program and a morning show host at AM 1380 WPHM – said they were looking for an evening guy at 96.9 and told me to put together a demo tape and résumé and go in and try for the job,” he said.
Michaels put together a demo tape and interviewed with Kevin Miller, the program director and Lee Hanson, the owner. They called him a few weeks later and offered him the job.
“I was stunned because compared to other people who had done radio I didn’t think I was that good and gave myself a million to one chance,” he said. “I got launched into this incredible world and I basically knew next to nothing about being on the radio. I was going in very green. I was learning from people who worked there and other DJs and it was like jumping into a pool and learning to swim. It was amazing and an incredible journey.”
Michaels said he continued to attend classes at SC4 while doing his night show, but after a while the long day and drive began to wear on him.
“Someone said to me, ‘You’re in radio now technically you don’t need a degree,’ and stupidly I listened. I was only three or four classes away,” he said. “I’m going to go back in the next year and take the last few classes; it’s just a matter of finding the time and coordinating that with my job.”
Michaels worked the night show for 96.9 for a year before getting the opportunity to fill in on the morning show.
“I was offered the morning show to do every morning for about 22 years,” Michaels said. “It was fun having the morning seat getting people off and rolling every morning. It is every DJ’s dream to be on the morning drive.”
For the past five years, in addition to doing the morning show, Michaels has been working as the production manager at RadioFirst, writing scripts, recording spots and being in charge of the commercials. Recently the station asked Michaels to be the full-time production manager.
“Doing the morning show, you don’t have to know everything about something but you have to know something about everything,” he said. “It’s almost like being a pop culture brain train. This is a new phase of radio, something new to do. I get to be creative minus the 100 mile per hour pace.”
Though Michaels has grown to be a household name in the Blue Water and surrounding area, he remains humble and credits SC4 with not only teaching him the basics of broadcasting, but giving him the start of a successful career.
“It was a different thing for me in that I was starting later than everyone else who had stayed in college and I felt like I was catching up,” he said. “SC4 was there in my backyard and it was so much fun and gave me so many opportunities and here I am 23 years later with a great career in town and it all started at SC4.”
He also credits SC4 for introducing him to his mentor, Hill.
“I had all around good teachers at SC4, but John was the man,” Michaels said. “If you went to broadcasting class you always talked about what a great teacher he was. He was a constant source of inspiration. Whenever I wasn’t feeling like I was doing my best or I was worried about my future he was very good about building me back up.”
What is Michael’s advice to students?
“You don’t have to rush off to college. There are so many people who don’t know what do after high school. So go to SC4, try this or one of those and see if you like it. The great thing about SC4 is its local and it is like testing the waters for kids who don’t know what they want to do or are intimidated by a university. I think that’s why it worked well for me.”
More about Sean: Sean now works at Port Huron Music.
Transferring success starts at SC4
Brent Moore began at SC4 and will earn his engineering degree at Michigan Tech
Brent Moore started college in his hometown and now can afford the bachelor’s degree that will enable him to work across the globe.
Moore started at SC4 before transferring to Michigan Technological University to pursue his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.
“I really like the idea of building infrastructure around the world. You can work anywhere in the world with an engineering degree,” said Moore, 21, of Avoca.
Moore came to SC4 first because his dream career wouldn’t have been within reach otherwise. “I saved $50,000 by starting at SC4,” he said of the tuition savings.
But SC4 set him up in ways beyond dollars and cents. The one-on-one attention he received from advisors and professors has prepared him well for the challenges of a bachelor’s degree program at Michigan Tech.
“The way they tended to you, if you need something, SC4 was there for you,” he said.
Starting at SC4 also gave Moore a chance to develop study habits needed at college. He encourages students to study early and often at SC4. He also encourages students to meet with SC4 advisors as often as possible to ensure the transfer process is smooth.
“If you put the work into it, and you come from SC4, you will be fine,” he said.
All in the family
SC4 is an important part of golf club superintendent’s family story
SC4 has been in many local families for decades. That is especially true for John Nowakowski, grounds superintendent at Port Huron Golf Club.
His father, Aloysius, taught math and pre-engineering at SC4. John and his nine siblings all began their higher education on SC4’s campus. John met his wife, Martha (Curti), whose father also taught at SC4, in the SC4 library. The tradition didn’t stop there. John and Martha’s four children all attended or plan to attend SC4.
Nowakowski knew from Day 1 he was going to be a Skipper.
“It was a given that all of us would be going to SC4,” said Nowakowski, 55, of Fort Gratiot. “My parents were wonderful and always stressed education. To be able to get such a great education in your backyard was wonderful for us and has been wonderful for our kids. It is a great stepping stone coming right from high school and a great way for kids to develop themselves.
“I had a great time going to school there. While I was taking classes, I got into officiating and worked hockey, high school softball and hardball games.”
Nowakowski said he planned to go the route of his father by studying engineering and math at Western Michigan University. After one year in Kalamazoo, however, he transferred to Michigan State University and got into the turf program.
“Once I got started in the program at MSU, I knew this was something I wanted to do the rest of my life,” said Nowakowski, who got his first taste in the golf industry working at Belle River Golf Course as a senior at Memphis High School.
“We were in Florida for a number of years and I was working at different courses,” Nowakowski said. “I had a chance to come back home and be the greens superintendent at Port Huron Golf Club. We wanted to get back closer to our families and this was a great opportunity.
“This is my 15th year at the club and I love it. It’s a wonderful place to work. Port Huron is just a nice place to raise a family.”
Nowakowski said his golf highlight was spending time on the PGA (Professional Golf Association) Tour.
John and Martha, a registered nurse at Port Huron Hospital, have four children – Lorena, Carson, Lewis and Rudy. Read a profile on Lorena, a teacher for Marysville schools, below.
Educating with passion
Lorena Nowakowski teaches students about the world
From West Africa to Washington Elementary School in Marysville, Spanish teacher Lorena Nowakowski has dedicated her career to opening the minds of her students.
“Every child deserves the same quality of education no matter where they are in the world,” said SC4 alumna Nowakowski. “My heart is always with kids.”
Nowakowski graduated from SC4 in 2008 and then from Saginaw Valley State University in 2011.
She immediately traveled to Sierra Leone, Africa, where she taught students in Third World conditions.
“It’s about sharing with other people the experiences you have, to gain knowledge,” she said. “With everything I’ve been given in life, how could you not do that.”
Her ultimate career goal is to return to Africa to teach. But she said she has the important responsibility now to bring a slice of other countries back to her students in Marysville.
“It’s exciting for me teaching culture alongside language, and open their eyes to that,” she said that. “If you can excite kids about these places, the whole world is open.”
Nowakowski said that SC4 for her was the perfect step between high school and a university. She had no debt when she left SC4 and all her credits transferred.
Her advice to students is to get active in college. Nowakowski was a Student Government officer.
“It is what you make of it. College is all about putting yourself out there,” she said.
The long path to success
O’Connor found dream career after time in military and at SC4
Tiffany O’Connor has let nothing stand in the way of achieving her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse.
The Fort Gratiot native and 2013 SC4 graduate works as a registered nurse in oncology at Huron Medical Center P.C., and is three months away from completing her bachelor of science in nursing through University of Michigan-Flint.
The road to her dreams, however, was not an easy one.
“I think the biggest part of my journey is I was a single mom going through this by myself; I didn’t have child support or the every other weekends, I mean I was a single mom,” she said. “My biggest thing was taking time away from my child, but I had to do it in order to provide a better life for him and to give him a good example of hard work.”
O’Connor’s journey began after she graduated from Port Huron Northern in 2004 and decided to join the Navy.
“A lot of my family members have served, that was part of why I joined,” she said. “The other was the experience because I knew it would make me a better human being and adult. I went in with the intention of staying in forever but I knew should I choose to get out there would be a lot of great education benefits.”
O’Connor said she spent four years in the military, a year of that deployed in the Middle East. It was an experience she feels has helped her as a nurse.
“It was an experience and one I would never take back,” she said. “I’ve seen so many places and it makes you more sensitive to specific situations as a nurse when you talk about culture. It helps develop teamwork, attention to detail and accountability and it overall made me a better nurse.”
After returning home, O’Connor decided to go into nursing, a career she had always dreamt about pursuing. Because of its location and reputation, O’Connor chose to attend SC4.
“I heard so many good things about SC4’s nursing program, why would I go anywhere else?” she said. “If I was going to get an associate degree from a junior college, this is the one I wanted to get it from.”
After completing the prerequisite courses, O’Connor applied to the nursing program and got in on the first try.
“I’ll never forget where I was and what I was doing when I opened the letter, “she said. “I was in my apartment and I called my mom and said, ‘The letter is here. This is really happening; you’re going to do this.’ I was excited and nervous.”
Before she graduated with honors, O’Connor said she was offered a nurse internship position at McLaren Hospital of Port Huron, and was later hired in full-time after passing her boards. She worked at the hospital for a year and a half before she accepted a part-time position at Huron Medical Center PC working in oncology.
“I remained full time at the hospital and part time at the office because I needed the benefits,” she said. “I was doing three 12-hour shifts and then working 8 to 10 hours a week at the office. It was rough.”
But O’Connor was determined to work in oncology and it wasn’t long before a full time position opened up.
“Oncology was always something I was fascinated by because it’s always changing and there is so much advancement in that area,” she said. “I wanted to work with patients who are in that position, and I wanted to be there for that treatment to make them smile. My job is done if I can make their day better.”
O’Connor said in her position she is tasked with anything from helping patients find necessary resources to mixing and administering chemotherapy drugs.
“We also provide emotional support for the family and patients,” she said. “It’s is a journey for sure and we become like an extended family member because some of our patients are there five days a week. We get very attached to our people.”
O’Connor said SC4 prepared her and gave her the necessary tools to be an effective nurse.
“I have talked to other people who went to Macomb Community College or Oakland University for a BSN and I feel SC4 did a better job in their associate program than they did in their BSN programs,” O’Connor said. “The most important thing of the degree is being hands-on, and SC4 provided that.”
Her advice to students?
“Take it one week at a time and plug on,” she said. “It looks intimidating when you are starting out but you have to keep at it. SC4 is so full of resources that people just don’t use. They told me, ‘Don’t work during the nursing program,’ well I had to work, so I worked and tutored and I was a single mom. Don’t make excuses, you can do it and you will look back and be so proud. There will be no better gratification.”
Finding his calling
Pathic found career path he loved at SC4
Growing up, Andrew Pathic enjoyed taking small electronics apart to see how they worked. It wasn’t until he started classes at St. Clair County Community College, however, that he realized he could turn his hobby into a career.
Pathic, a Peck High School graduate, recently graduated cum laude with an industrial automation technology degree and two certificates in engineering technology and electrical/industrial. He said this wasn’t the direction he was going to go when he first sat down with advisor Scott Watson.
“I was pretty lost and was leaning more toward healthcare, but after I talked to Scott about all of my experiences he said I sounded more like a hands on, get dirty and work hard kind of guy, and an automation tech degree would be perfect for that,” Pathic said. “Scott was a great help throughout the program, he kept me motivated and pushed me. He’s an awesome advisor.”
Watson said he nominated Pathic for the Student Recognition Ceremony because he felt he was a good student who showed a lot of determination when it came to completing his degree.
Shortly after graduation Pathic got a job at Huron Inc. in Lexington, as an industrial automation technician. He said his role is to troubleshoot when a machine goes down in order to get it back up and running.
“I work with the programmable logic controllers or PLCs which are the brains of the machine,” he said. “It communicates with the machine using sensors and makes the machine go in the right sequence so it can perform its operation. It’s awesome to get to tear things apart to see how stuff works.”
Pathic said SC4 helped prepare him greatly for his new role and, aside from Watson, credits SC4 professor Matt Morabito with helping him achieve success.
“He taught my basic electronics classes and was the first teacher in the first class I ever took at SC4,” he said. “He was very motivational and pushed me to not only get my work done but get it done right. He made sure you knew the material and overall he was a great teacher.”
Pathic spoke highly of the program and said he would recommend this degree to anyone.
“What was nice about the program is every class tied together somehow and it’s hands on,” he said. “So if you love working with machines and getting your hands dirty then you would love this degree.”
What is Pathic’s advice for current students? “Stick with it! As long as you work hard you will achieve your goals, especially in this field. This is a great program with great teachers, and your hard work will pay off in the long run.”
Protect and serve
Platzer has dedicated his life to keeping Port Huron residents safe
After watching his father dedicate his life to a career in law enforcement, Lt. Joe Platzer knew serving his community was the path he also wanted to take. “My father was a police officer in Port Huron and I was able to see what he did for a living and I liked it and knew from a young age that is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Platzer said.
He started out as a Police Explorer, a program where 14 to 18 year olds learn the ins and out of police work. Platzer then earned his criminal justice degree from SC4 and graduated in 1991. Upon earning his degree he enrolled in the police academy and began work at the Port Huron Police Department. He also continued his education, earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Eastern Michigan University. He is currently working on a master’s degree in criminal justice public administration through University of Michigan-Flint.
Platzer said he chose SC4 because it was located in his community and he liked that the cadet program is offered in conjunction with the criminal justice program.
“You are considered a part-time employee but you also have to be enrolled at SC4 going into criminal justice,” he said. “We hire police cadets to work the desk, take walk-in complaints, capture tips, patrol the parks and waterways in the summer, and just be an ambassador for the department.
In his more than 25 years in law enforcement, Platzer has moved up the ranks at PHPD, starting as a cadet, and then as a plainclothes officer working with the Special Crimes Unit in gang and narcotic investigation.
He was promoted to detective and then road sergeant, and in 2010 was selected to start up and run the Major Crimes Unit, now the Neighborhood Enforcement Team, which is a plainclothes operation dealing with high profile crimes in Port Huron. In 2014 he was promoted to lieutenant and most recently administrative lieutenant. He’s also in charge of the Special Response team and has held positions as Police Explorers advisor, field training officer, range master and is an adjunct professor at SC4.
“I like being able to give back to the community and teach, which is something I want to pursue down the line when I retire,” he said. “I had a good background from my dad being a police officer and being in the Explorer Program, but SC4 enhanced my knowledge on a lot of different topics and gave me the basic fundamentals on what police work is about.”
Platzer’s advice for students: “You need college to advance in any type of employment that you choose. The more education you have and the better the portfolio you provide, the higher the position you will be able to obtain in your respective business or job. I’m just a big proponent of education.”
More about Joe: Joe is now the Port Huron Chief of Police.
Rhodes triplets enjoyed experience at SC4, Blue Water Middle College
The Rhodes brothers have a plan in place for what they want to accomplish in their lives.
And the triplets – Jacob, Phillip, Ryan – hope to fulfill their dreams together.
“We are really close. We do everything together,” said Jacob, who like his brothers was a 2014 Memphis High School graduate. “We hope to someday have our own construction business.”
The Rhodes took a step closer to their academic goals by taking part in St. Clair County Community College’s 91st annual Commencement ceremony Friday, May 8. They also will participate in the Blue Water Middle College Commencement Wednesday, May 27.
“Going to SC4 and being involved in the Middle College program has been a good experience for us,” said Ryan, 19. “We have taken the same classes together and have done well in them.
There is more freedom here at the college than what you have in high school,” Phillip said. “The teachers are great and there is some neat stuff to take advantage of like the library and the weight room.”
Following graduation from SC4, the triplets will be separated for some time this summer. Jacob and Phillip are scheduled to leave June 1 for the National Guard basic training in Missouri. The program runs for 3½ months.
The Rhodes will be reunited in January when they begin classes at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. They plan to major in construction management.
“Our dad is a plumber and we have an uncle in the construction business,” Ryan said. “It is something that has interested us for some time. Northern Michigan has one of the best construction management programs around.”
The brothers enjoy hunting and fishing. They also have made a few visits to the Northern Michigan University campus during summer camping trips and 4-H shows.
Caring for kids
Fate led Rinke to Woodland Developmental Center
Before beginning at SC4, Louann Rinke had a decision to make. Either follow in her mother’s footsteps as a respiratory therapist or become a nurse. Her mother helped her make a decision in an interesting way.
“She allowed me to job shadow her, as a 29 year old, but she said the only way I could was if I would job shadow a nurse the next day,” Rinke said. “My mom was in California, so I flew to California and shadowed her for the day and then I spent the next day with a nurse and after those two days there was no doubt in my mind I would go into nursing.”
The Yale native is currently employed at Woodland Developmental Center where she works with children who have special needs and feels fate brought her to the job she loves. But the road getting her there wasn’t without its struggle.
Rinke, a mother of three, said she opted to come back to school at SC4 in 1992 because her husband was working a lot of hours and she wanted to alleviate some of their financial stress.
“I wanted to do this with the least amount of impact on children,” she said. “They still participated in their activities and I studied by dome light when they were at dance. I would put the kids to bed and study late into the night and then get them off to school in the morning and go to class myself. It was challenging and very stressful and I had to be extremely organized but the kids did really well through it and they learned a lot about study habits and determination.”
Rinke graduated magna cum laude in 1995 from the nursing program, and went on to complete her bachelor’s degree in nursing through University of Michigan-Flint, where she again graduated with honors.
\After graduation she took a position at Port Huron Hospital working in the NICU and then eventually moved to the pediatric floor. It was there that she came across a job posting for a school nurse at Woodland.
“I hadn’t at that point thought of leaving the hospital but for whatever reason the posting sparked my interested. I thought ‘boy I if I had more experience I might think about it so if it’s meant to be it will come up again.’ Three years later the posting came back again and it just felt like it was meant to be.”
Rinke said she works with students ranging in age from 3 to 26 and does a variety of things including working with moderately cognitively impaired older students teaching basic first aid, especially for injuries that can happen at home and in the kitchen. She also works with diabetic and asthmatic students to help them understand their diet and medications, and trains staff on new procedures, medications, seizures, asthma and allergies.
“People look at school nursing as not as intense as hospital nursing and look at it as more of Band-Aid nursing, but these children are medically fragile and have severe cognitive impairments. I have had children on ventilators, diabetic students who need insulin, children who have feeding tubes, I deal with seizures – in all reality, my hospital training prepared me to care for the students and families at Woodland.”
Rinke said she loves her job and feels she learns more from the kids she cares for than she could ever teach them.
“Working with the children at Woodland, you don’t ever take one day for granted,” she said. “These kids are strong and fighting through every day, and have such positive attitudes and smiles on their faces that you can’t help but be in awe of them. Woodland is nothing like you expect and everything you would hope for in a school with students who have special needs. We are helping children walk whose parents were told they would never walk through the MOVE program. We are helping children communicate and do things that have never been on their radar before. It’s a place of hope.”
Rinke said the nursing program greatly prepared her for her current position and mentioned professor Barb Bloink in particular for leaving a lasting impression.
“She was amazing in her ability to help you understand,” Rinke said. “She could explain things to you so it made sense and she had a thorough knowledge of the whole subject matter. I aspire to be half as fluent in nursing as she was and be able to impact somebody as much as she did me. She was an incredible teacher. If I had it to do it over I would do it the same way and wouldn’t think twice about going back to school. Both of my daughters went to SC4 and I have great respect for the college in general and the nursing program.”
Rinke also works as an adjunct professor in the nursing program.
What is Rinke’s advice for current students? “I was not a good high school student and I was afraid to go to college because I thought my being a bad high school student would define me as a college student but that was very false. It is all in what you want, It’s about your goals and determination. If you want it you can do it. I honestly can tell you, people told me I would never make it through SC4’s nursing program. Being the person I am, it drove me harder. But don’t ever think you can’t do it because you can certainly do it if you put your mind to it.”
Keeping Port Huron safe
Smith follows love of public service into a rewarding career as a K-9 officer.
Public safety has always been a part of Chad Smith’s life and was a career he knew from an early age he wanted to be a part of.
A resident of Kimball Township, Smith’s dad worked for the Fort Gratiot Fire Department for 20 years and is currently fire chief.
“There were times my dad couldn’t be there for Christmas and other holidays and events because he was out there helping people,” Smith said. “At a young age I got to start going on calls with him and that opened my eyes to what a life in public service was about.”
Those rides inspired him to become a police officer and as soon as he reached high school he applied to be a cadet at the Port Huron Police Department. In 2003, he chose to enroll at SC4 because he knew he could stay local and get a great education. He earned his associate degree in criminal justice in 2005 and went on to complete the Macomb Police Academy a year later.
He says SC4’s curriculum prepared him greatly for the academy. “The first few weeks of class were a big couple of weeks because you had to do well or you didn’t continue on,” Smith said. “From the law side of things to the criminal procedures side, the program at SC4 definitely prepared me for the academy.”
Shortly after graduating from the academy, Smith got a job working again for the PHPD, and about three years ago underwent the application process to be part of the K-9 Unit. He says the position has been the most rewarding of his career.
“I was issued a one year old black labrador retriever named Liv and she has been with me every day since. She is so smart and knows me so well she can sense the difference between a good guy and bad guy just by the inflection of my voice,” Smith said. “She is one of the best partners you can have.”
Liv is one of two working dogs within the department and she along with Smith are certified in narcotic detection through the United States Police Canine Association to assist officers in locating marijuana, hashish, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine or any derivative of these narcotics, according to the department’s website.
Some police officers don’t want to work where they live but Smith said he is proud to be an officer, especially one in his community. He said he is able to understand the needs and downfalls of the city and can use those to his advantage to effectively enforce the law.
“I was born and raised and went to school here and those connections have become beneficial. A lot of people don’t trust police officers but if they know who I am as a person they are more likely to come talk to me when they have an issue.”
Smith credits his parents and his time working as a cadet for keeping him focused and instilling in him the work ethic he needed to help achieve his goals.
His advice for current students is, “Just keep at it. You have to be determined; especially if you want to become a police officer because the job market is becoming flooded so you have to be able to market yourself. If you give up or slack that is going to hurt your future chances.”
Police officer Christopher Smith doesn’t quit on his career goals
Port Huron Police Officer Christopher Smith never gave up on his career goals, and SC4 has enabled him to make a positive difference in his hometown.
Smith’s path to law enforcement traveled through SC4, but not how he originally intended. After graduating from Port Huron Northern High School, he attended SC4 for one semester.
He dropped out of school with poor grades.
“I thought working in fast food was easier than going to school,” he said.
Smith moved from fast food to the laundry department at Port Huron Hospital. He again enrolled at SC4 and dropped out.
His life and career path changed with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The national crisis helped him realize he was missing his true calling.
“I thought, ‘I want to make a difference,’ ” Smith said. “I came back dedicated.”
He enrolled for a third time at SC4 in 2001, this time focused on his future. Smith juggled working full time with going to school full time. School was tough, but he thanks his SC4 instructors for challenging him and offering personal help.
Smith earned his associate degree in criminal justice – law enforcement from SC4 in 2003. He attended the Macomb Police Academy and also completed it in 2003.
“I couldn’t actually believe I was a police officer,” he said.” I let my goal go for about 10 years. To be able to apply what you learned, it was a good feeling.”
Smith has been working at the Port Huron Police Department since 2005.
Smith’s advice for students at SC4 or considering going to college is to stick to their long-term plans. “I encourage people to set a goal and go for it. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone.”
Following her passion
SC4 Rad Tech degree leads to a fulfilling career at Children’s Hospital of Detroit
Courtney Smith set out on her college journey knowing she wanted to work with children, but it wasn’t until she returned to St. Clair County Community College that she found a way to turn her passion into a fulfilling career.
Smith, a resident of Kimball Township and a graduate of Port Huron Northern, said after high school she went away to Grand Valley State University for about a year and then transferred to Central Michigan University for six months.
“I wanted to get out of town, so I went away and I wish I hadn’t because now I have so many student loans from these big colleges. It is all from taking classes that I could have taken at SC4.” Smith said. “Once I came home and completed my associate degree in general education I started narrowing down what I liked and I really started to pay attention to what I had in front of me and realized how many degrees are available at SC4, so I ended up staying.”
She attended SC4 from 2009 until 2015 and earned degrees in general education and radiologic technology, and is two classes away from a degree in early childhood education. This past summer, she began her job as a radiographer at Children’s Hospital of Detroit.
Smith said she has always had a passion for helping children and during her time at SC4 began working at McLaren Hospital of Port Huron as a nurse aide on the pediatric unit. She liked working at the hospital and loved working with children but felt being a nurse was not for her. It was then a family friend began talking to her about radiologic technology, a program recently reintroduced to SC4.
“Radiologic technology sounded so interesting to me,” she said. “And I knew after completing the two-year program I would come away with a good job, a good income and good insurance, and I knew I could support myself without needing any outside assistance.”
Smith said she applied to the rad tech program twice and it was on the second try that she was accepted. She graduated in June of 2015 as part of the programs second graduating class.
“The program was challenging and you put in so much effort and do so much work and at the time you question why they are pushing you to your limit,” Smith said. “But walking in as a new hire at a big hospital I am finding they put the same pressures on you and everyone here is shocked because a lot of them haven’t heard of SC4 but they are blown away by how prepared I am.”
Smith said she loves her job, especially because she is able to work in all parts of the hospital using X-rays to help in the diagnosis of different illness and conditions within children.
“There is a lot more to it than just taking pictures, we inject contrast to see organ functions and we are in operating rooms making sure hip and knee replacements are in the right places. With X-rays we can give people confirmation and they can leave here with answers and it’s cool I get to be a part of that.”
Now that Smith has found a career she is passionate about her advice to students is: “You don’t have to know the end result or what you want to be but you have to start somewhere. Take some general education classes and go out and job shadow different careers. Research what the education level is, what it entails and will do for you and just find yourself as you’re going. I didn’t know and I wish I had taken the time to step back and figure it out.”
A perfect fit
SC4’s office administration program provided exactly what Nichole Smith needed
The classes Nichole Smith took at Yale High School made her want to pursue an office administration degree, and SC4 proved to be the perfect place for her to earn it.
“Going through high school I took accounting and computer classes so I learned the basics and wanted to extend on that,” The Lynn Township native said. “(Office administration) was something I always wanted to do – I like paperwork I guess you can say. SC4 was close to home and had the program I wanted.”
Smith graduated in 2009 with her associate degree in office administration – administrative executive assistant, and now works with the City of Port Huron as the community development program coordinator. She earned the position after completing her second internship with the city and feels she wouldn’t be where she is today without gaining the basics at SC4.
“They didn’t want to lose me here,” she said. “They said I was a good worker and I think SC4 gave me the everyday skills like answering the phone and knowing about how to work all of the computer programs. They could hand me anything and I could get it done with little or no training.
“We get interns from different schools including SC4 and everyone has different skills, but I find the interns from SC4 have better job skills because you learn the basic skills that you need in an office setting, and interns coming from the bigger schools sometimes lack that.”
In her position, Smith oversees the city’s home rehab grants and said a typical day consists of meeting with applicants, doing site visits and completing lots of paper work. She said it is very rewarding to help people of our community.
“I have a lady in particular who we were able to give a new roof to,” Smith said. “She was so happy, and we don’t like to take anything because we are just doing our job, but she brought us each flowers and insisted we take them. It definitely touched us.”
She credits professors Carol Desjardin and Marilind Roff with helping her achieve all-around success.
“I did my first internship with Mrs. Desjardin when she was the chair (at SC4) and I was one of her interns. She is a very smart woman and I learned a lot from her.” Smith said. “I had Mrs. Roff for my business communication class and it was one of the toughest classes I had, but I took a lot out of it. I was always shy and I don’t like to talk in front of people but that class opened me up. Mrs. Roff was so good about making you feel comfortable.”
Smith thought so highly of the program she encouraged her sister to enroll and she is actively working toward her degree.
“She saw how I did and wanted to go down the same path because I enjoyed the program and she wanted to go through the same thing,” she said. “It’s a great program that SC4 offers, and I wish more people would get involved in it.”
Smith’s advice to students: “Keep fighting through it. It gets hard being in school and working but you have to keep fighting through it and it will pay off in the end.”
Providing excellence in health care
SC4 nursing graduate Rebekah Smith thrives in role of hospital CEO
Rebekah Smith used her start at St. Clair County Community College to stay local and build a successful career in Port Huron health care.
A 1980 SC4 alumna, Smith is president and chief executive officer at St. Joseph Mercy Port Huron. Her new role has her heading the hospital where she literally grew up.
Her career began at the hospital as a nurse in 1980 and went on to include numerous positions there at different times. She also had leadership roles at the Port Huron Vascular Clinic and was a consultant for vascular services in the Port Huron area.
The path to her career success began at SC4. She credits her education in the associate degree nursing program for giving her the confidence to explore never-imagined job opportunities.
“I went to SC4 originally because it was the college that was in my community, but it also had an incredible reputation for the quality of nurses going out into the community,” Smith said.
Her appreciation of SC4 went beyond the quality of the nursing department. She said the willingness of faculty and staff in other departments to encourage success gave her motivation and the chance to get the most of her college experience.
“I was as prepared if not the same than more than anybody else coming from a different nursing degree program (for my first job),” Smith said.
She went on to earn her bachelor of applied science degree from Siena Heights University with a minor in nursing and her master of health care administration from Central Michigan University.
“They had given me an incredible education there, and, because of that, I believed I was a good nurse,” she said. “I had real-life experience, and I loved sharing that with students.”
Today, Smith continues her input in an advisory role by helping shape SC4’s office administration classes and programs.
Smith’s advice for SC4 alumni is to find a mentor and never close opportunities before they present themselves.
“Be open to where your education and career path might take you. Very few people graduate and remain in the exact same position that they were in the day they graduated,” she said. “Never stop learning.”
Sparling named Tillman Scholar
Working toward law degree
Every day men and women in our military are called to duty and risk their lives so the people of the United States can continue to be safe and free.
Yale native Joshua Sparling is one of those men who felt the call of duty and it happened while he was pursuing a Criminal Justice degree at St. Clair County Community College.
“I am one of those people who has always loved the military. I have family members who have served in the military and I grew up in Yale and we have great respect and appreciation for what they do every single day,” Sparling said. “I felt I had a duty to the United States to serve, especially at that time.”
Sparling was a paratrooper in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne and earned the rank of corporal. While he was deployed in Ramadi, Iraq he was wounded during an ambush by an improvised explosive device, an injury that would ultimately result in the loss of his right leg below the knee.
While he recovered at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Sparling said he wanted to continue to be a productive member of society and decided to again pursue his Criminal Justice degree and would fly home once a week to attend classes at SC4.
“At that time, my main mission was to get my Criminal Justice degree from SC4, so that’s what I did,” Sparling said. “Once I get my teeth into something and say I am going to do it, I usually do.”
He had hopes of working for the Federal Border Patrol, but due to the nature of his injury Sparling said he had to slow down and be real with himself, so he began considering other careers. Inspiration came in the form of SC4 teacher Ken Lord who he said influenced him to pursue a career in law.
“He was a Green Beret and the guy was so cool,” Sparling said. “He taught my constitutional law class and that is originally when the law bug got put in me. He was on the defense side and taught us everyone deserves their constitutional right. He opened my eyes to a different avenue.”
After finishing his Criminal Justice degree in 2009, Sparling transitioned to Ferris State University to purse a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. It was during that time he began working with Congresswoman Candace Miller as the Veteran’s Defense Coordinator. He said that position further encouraged him to pursue a law degree.
“I took the LSAT and did well,” he said. “I thought maybe law school was in the cards, and that’s why I went for it.”
Sparling said he was accepted into a few schools in Michigan but opted to attend University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers School of Law in Tucson. He has one year left and in addition to attending law school, raising his family, and working for the Attorney General’s Office for the prosecution, Sparling was selected as a Tillman Scholar.
The Tillman Foundation is named for Pat Tillman, who walked away from a multi-million dollar career in the NFL to be an Army Ranger, and lost his life in Afghanistan. The Tillman foundation was created in 2004 and supports military veterans and their spouses with academic scholarships.
“There are a few thousand people who apply and they select 60 throughout the country,” Sparling said. “I’m very surprised and cannot believe I was chosen to carry on Pat Tillman’s legacy. He made the ultimate sacrifice and being mentioned in the same breath as someone like that is a great honor.”
Sparling said he also received the St. Thomas Moore Society Judge Jon Roll Scholarship which is awarded to law students who are in good academic standing and interact with the Catholic Church in a meaningful way.
“It is not as well-known, but I’m a strong catholic guy and I’m equally as proud of this scholarship,” he said.
While law may not have been what Sparling had in mind when he began taking classes at SC4, he feels he is exactly where he is supposed to me.
“Things change and you have to move with the plans,” he said. “I think I am more suited behind a desk or in a court room anyway. I miss the action but I’m a firm believer things happen for a reason and that the path I’m on is the right one for me.”
Sparling’s Advice to current students: “Take the time to develop yourself without sacrificing your beliefs. College is like an incubator, develop your character and don’t lose it because you will never get this type of opportunity again. I’m going to law school and I’m working with the Attorney General’s office in Arizona, I have three kids and a wife and if I can do that and still make my VA appointments then anyone should be able to get their dreams accomplished.”
Jerry St. James
A great start
SC4 provided St. James with what he needed to begin his college education
Jerry (Gerald) St. James began planning for his future well in advance when he decided to dual enroll at SC4 as a junior in high school, and it paid off in a big way.
After completing his associate degree in science, he was able to transfer close to 90 credits to the University of Michigan, helping him get a jump start on his bachelor’s degree in biomolecular science, which he will finish this semester.
The Marine City native has decided to stay at U-M, as he was recently accepted into its pharmacology program, which he will begin in the fall.
“I thought it was a good idea to start earning college credit in high school so I could graduate faster,” he said. “A lot of the classes I did take while I was in high school ended up transferring to the University of Michigan, so I was able to take a lot of classes (at SC4) that I would have had to take at U-M. I was able to save money and I significantly cut into my debt that I’m going to have.”
St. James said he followed the transfer guide available on U-M’s website and worked with SC4 advisors to ensure his classes transferred.
Matt Zeig, an academic advisor at SC4 who worked with St. James, said if students want to ensure classes will transfer they need to decide where they are going and what they are transferring for sooner rather than later.
“Advisors understand picking a transfer college and degree can be a tough decision and welcome undecided students. However, when students are undecided they will want to make multiple campus visits and do research into different areas of interest for a career to help narrow down their choices. Being proactive in the decision making process will only benefit them,” he said. “Jerry is a great example of a student being proactive by meeting with advisors and following the transfer guides to ensure courses will transfer and aid him at the next level.”
St. James noted most of the courses he took at the 200 level or higher transferred easily to U-M. The 100 level courses transferred as well, but as department credit.
St. James said he enjoyed his time at SC4, noting the smaller class sizes were beneficial and helped him gain a good understanding of his core classes before transferring to a bigger university./
“Here (U-M) you are in classes of 300 some people, and they read a PowerPoint slide and move on,” St. James said. “And if you want to learn you have to go out of your way, where at SC4, teachers go out of their way for you. It’s a big difference.”
He mentioned Joe Gibbons and Nick Goins specifically for leaving a lasting impression on him.
“I had Joe for most of my chemistry classes (at SC4) and had Nick for my calculus sequence. I really enjoyed their classes and they taught me a lot,” he said.
St. James said one reason he chose to attend U-M was because it is one of the few colleges in Michigan which has a rifle team. He recently served as treasurer of the team, and will begin his term as president next year. He gained a love of the sport after 10 years in 4H.
“This is Olympic style shooting … We travel the country shooting and we recently went to Georgia for nationals and our team won this year,” he said. “We are shooting with Olympians who will be competing in the Rio summer games, so it’s a great experience and you learn a lot. We have one of the best coaches in the state, if not country.”
U-M’s well-respected pharmacology program was another reason St. James chose the college.
“I wanted to do something in the medical field and my aunt is a pharmacist so I grew up around it and I felt it was the best fit for me in terms of career goals and what I wanted to accomplish in my life,” he said. “I got a job as a pharm tech right after SC4 and instantly loved it and reinforced my wanting to become a pharmacist. I’m thinking of going into clinical pharm and working at a hospital, but I haven’t narrowed it down to what I want to do.”
St. James said SC4 proved to be a great place to get a jump start on his education and said the college was also the starting point for his sisters.
“Both of my sisters went to SC4 and graduated from there,” he said. “One went on to get her masters at Walsh and the other went to Michigan State University and then on to Mississippi State and Illinois where she earned two master’s degrees, one from each school. My mom also teaches math at SC4.”
What is St. James advice for current students? “The biggest thing about SC4 is if you are using it as a transfer school you have to know which classes will transfer and which will not. You need to know exactly what you want to get out of SC4 and take advantage of what it has to offer. I got the same education (at SC4) as I would have (at U-M).”
Dr. Roberta Teahen
Blazing a new trail
Dr. Roberta Teahen went from first-generation college student to college administrator
Dr. Roberta Teahen didn’t know what she wanted to do when she came to Port Huron Junior College in 1963.
Teahen, who is now the Doctorate in Community College Leadership Director and Associate Provost at Ferris State University, wasn’t sure if she would even finish a degree, so she took some business classes to be prepared to work as a secretary. Her experience at PHJC (now known as St. Clair County Community College), however, turned out to be the spark for a successful career in education.
“A frequent line I use when I’m speaking to groups is that I’m a proud community college graduate,” Teahen said. “It was the best quality education that I had, and I’m a three times over Michigan State graduate – I’m very proud of that education, as well. The focus at most community colleges is on helping students learn. That was my experience in Port Huron. Class sizes were much smaller and you get to know your faculty and they get to know you. I also had a lot of leadership opportunities. In community colleges, you have a great opportunity to be engaged.
“Had I not gone there, I don’t think I would be a college graduate.”
Teahen, a Marysville High School graduate, earned an associate of arts from PHJC before transferring to Michigan State where she earned her bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and Ph.D.
She made the decision to transfer to MSU after talking with the late Chet Aubuchon, who was then the dean at PHJC. In what was a chance meeting, Teahen explained to Aubuchon that she hadn’t planned on transferring because she didn’t have the money to attend a four-year school.
“He said, ‘That is not the issue, we’ll figure it out,’” Teahen recalled. “He helped me with finding a scholarship, and I hadn’t ever applied for financial aid. It was a major turning point in my life.”
Her professional life has been spent in education, including time as a high school teacher and faculty member at multiple higher-learning institutions. She was a faculty member and administrator at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City before going to Ferris State in 2002 as the Dean of Extended Learning. While in that role, she made Ferris State’s Bachelor in Science in Criminal Justice program available to SC4 students. The program allows students to finish a Ferris State degree while taking classes at SC4.
As each new opportunity has come up, Teahen has been ready to take it on. It’s something that started back in her days as a student at PHJC.
“I do often work with students at all levels,” she said. “While we do encourage them to make career plans, more often I tell them to keep yourself capable for an opportunity that could come along, and to be open. That’s been the story of my career, is to be open to opportunities.”
Crunching the numbers
Tucker decided SC4 was the right choice to start path to career in accounting
Brent Tucker chose a career in accounting at the urging of his family and looked to SC4 first to begin pursuing his degree.
“I chose SC4 because of the location, the low tuition and the ease of transferring credits to a four-year college,” he said.
The Port Huron native graduated from SC4 in 2013 with an associate degree in accounting. He transferred to Walsh College where he completed a bachelor of accountancy in 2015.
While at SC4, Tucker was awarded a Del James Blessinger Outstanding Student Award in 2013, and earned Academic Achievement Awards in 2011 and 2012.
Tucker, who is currently employed as a Tax Associate at Cendrowski Selecky, a CPA firm in Bloomfield Hills, said he draws on the knowledge he acquired at SC4 to help him do his job effectively.
“SC4 offered classes that shed light on an array of different accounting fields,” he said. “The federal income taxation course showed me that tax can be difficult but exciting to a select few individuals. Mr. (Michael) Belleman was my instructor and he made it very challenging but it also drew me into the field.”
Tucker said in addition to Belleman, SC4 professor Julie Armstrong was also influential in the way she encouraged him think through problems, sometimes from a new angle.
“Julie took an interest in me as a person and a student, and Belleman has a different approach to teaching that I found unique and challenging,” Tucker said. “They have taught me that everyone is different and to be prepared to handle different insights and demands.”
Tucker offered this advice to students: “Manage your time well. Make time to study and make time to have fun. There needs to be a balance.”
Wright’s mechatronics degree has provided a new, fulfilling career
While Nathan Wright was working in a factory, he found himself intrigued more with the work going on behind the scenes than what was happening in front of him.
When that factory closed and he came to St. Clair County Community College to better prepare for the workforce, he found a program that fit what had interested him: mechatronics.
“I was one of the mill workers left behind,” he said. “I went to SC4 to get more schooling, and I found out about mechatronics. I had seen this stuff going on in the factory I had been working in.”
“I was seeing what happened in factories, and I really liked the control side.”
Thanks to some previous credits he had earned while getting a degree in computers from ITT Technological Institute, Wright was able to finish his mechatronics degree at SC4 in less than two years.
Now Wright, a 1999 Port Huron Northern graduate, is an Automation Technician at Triton Automation Group in Port Huron, where he has been for the past three years. He’s programming robots, working with programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and electrical control design, and much more.
When asked if he was happy with his new career, Wright answered quickly, “Absolutely!”
He said that his time at SC4 gave him a good base of information for his current job.
“We got more of the hands-on training, not just learning the book work,” he said. “You get to go into the labs and actually see what you were just learning, then you can apply it and watch it work.”
From high school to a career
SC4 leads Dan Zyrowski to career in robotics programming
Dan Zyrowski in 2011 was a Marine City High School graduate without solid career plans in mind.
After less than a year of classes at SC4, the 19-year-old landed a full-time job that has him programming industrial robots.
“I found something that I want to do for the rest of my life,” he said.
Zyrowski of East China Township works as a programmable logistics controller programmer at R&E Automated Systems in Macomb Township. His company makes robots for other companies. Zyrowski helps write the software those robots need to do the work.
Jobs in science, technology, engineering and math are among the fastest growing in Michigan. Zyrowski studied in one of the 14 certificate and 19 associate degree programs SC4 offers in these fields.
Robotics wasn’t Zyrowski’s first job choice. He initially took classes toward a certificate in industrial electronics. In that program he was introduced to robotics and his strong interest in robot programming was born.
“Out of all of my classes, robotics was my favorite.” he said.
Zyrowski enjoyed not just the knowledgeable instructors but also the hands-on learning opportunities at SC4.
“At universities, you cannot touch robots until your second or third year in the program,” he said. “At SC4, I was able to work with them during my first semester.”
The skills Zyrowski learned at SC4 are in such demand he was hired at R&E even before finishing his SC4 electrical/industrial certificate program. He plans to return to college and finish the program. For now, Zyrowski said he’s getting valuable on-the-job training that wouldn’t have been possible without his SC4 classes.
For example, the computer software he’s using in his professional setting is the same that learned on while at SC4.
“They gave me the knowledge I needed to know,” he said of his time at SC4.
While Zyrowski is enjoying the new challenges of the job, he’s also soaking up other perks.
Before he came to SC4, he was working manual labor jobs that didn’t always have the best working conditions. Today, he’s making the same amount of money while working fewer hours in an air conditioned environment with enthusiastic co-workers. And he’s excited for the chance for advancement, and higher pay, as his skills grow.
“This is an awesome opportunity,” he said.