George Brown

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.

George Brown
George Brown

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.”