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.”