Lessons learned at SC4 impact daily life for Meteorologist Colton Cichoracki

Colton Cichoracki is living his dream. He’s a meteorologist with ABC12 News (WJRT-TV) in Flint. He’s had the same drive and aspiration to be a meteorologist his entire life. While there were other stops along the way to Cichoracki’s success, it started at St. Clair County Community College almost a decade ago.

“I was a Blue Water Middle College Academy student from Memphis,” Cichoracki explained.

“I was in the very first cohort of the program in the fall of 2011, so I was entering into something that hadn’t been done before, and I’m glad I did. It was a fantastic experience and I’m a huge advocate of the middle college concept.”

Looking back, Cichoracki recalls how each of his professors cared about him as an individual.

“I never had a bad professor. In fact, I liked many of them so much that I took multiple classes from them,” he recalled. “I took two political science classes with Ethan Flick and two English classes with Chris Hilton. I remember taking Patricia Frank’s history class where we re-enacted military battles in the courtyards on campus! The impact that SC4’s professors had on me is something I carry with me today.”

Cichoracki earned his Associate in Arts degree from SC4 in 2014 and then transferred to Central Michigan University, where he majored in meteorology (with a minor in mathematics) and graduated in 2017. He started his career at KQ2 News in St. Joseph, Missouri, before moving back to Michigan to his current job in Flint.

He credits SC4 with helping him get off to a great start.

“Community college got me where I wanted to be,” Cichoracki said. “They serve such a critical role in the community, helping people grow academically and professionally. I tell everyone who’s graduating from high school to go to a community college first. You can get a lot of your general education classes done at a much lower price, and it’ll give you the experience of how to succeed in college before moving on to a university.”

The wide range of students, particularly in their ages, is another pleasant memory for Cichoracki.

“When I was at SC4, I was often the youngest person in my class,” he said. “But there were other students in their seventies in the class as well. They were doing the same thing I was, though, working to better themselves. Their age or background didn’t matter. SC4 gave us the means to succeed and make something of ourselves.”

Cichoracki also recommends community college for students who aren’t quite sure what direction they’re headed yet.

“Go to a community college, take some classes in a field you might be interested in, and see if it’s what you want to do,” he suggested. “At CMU, I saw so many people change their majors again and again, spending so much money each time to start over. You don’t need to do that. Community colleges can help you figure out what you want to do, and you’ll be much better off for it.”

Watch Colton in a recent weather broadcast on ABC12 News (WJRT-TV) below or check out his professional Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ColtonCichorackiABC12.

Bank senior vice president Gary Schlinkert’s success began at SC4

Gary Schlinkert is a big advocate of community colleges. The Marysville High School graduate attended St. Clair County Community College from 1973 to 1975.

“Both my folks and I felt that two years at SC4 would be best – and a lot cheaper,” said Schlinkert, who is senior vice president of West Shore Bank in Ludington, Michigan. “I learned a lot and enjoyed my time there. I was involved in Student Government as a representative of Phi Theta Kappa, played sports and got to know other students, many of whom I am still in contact with to this day.”

According to Schlinkert, he also was inspired by SC4 faculty members to pursue new interests in economics and the stock market.

“I had several excellent professors while I was at SC4, particularly in the areas of economics, physics and mathematics,” he said. “Professor Tansky and Professor Falls were excellent instructors. I learned a lot from them. The fact that I remember their names after so many years is a testament to the impact they made on me as a young student.”

Schlinkert transferred from SC4 to Lawrence Technological University in 1975 to pursue a degree in architecture. However, he soon changed his path back to his interest of economics and finance, enrolling at the New York Institute of Finance. There he earned several certifications that prepared him for the licensing required to be a registered representative, insurance, options and commodity broker. 

Most of Schlinkert’s career has been spent as an executive in the financial sector. He was a licensed stockbroker for more than 30 years and was originally involved in bringing stock brokerage services to community banking customers at what is now a large regional bank. In his current position at West Shore Bank, he oversees wealth management, deposit operations, human resources, compliance and internal audit.

Schlinkert, who lives in Manistee, is in the process of transferring credits to SC4 to earn his Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees for summer 2020 graduation through the reverse transfer option. He maintained ties to SC4 through his son, Craig, who served for 20 years in the U.S. Navy, graduated from SC4 with his associate degree, and went on to Rutgers University and its National Transit Institute for Procurement. Schlinkert also has two daughters who received their bachelor’s degree, one from Oakland University (Jaime Greene) and the other from Alma College (Carly Schlinkert). Jaime also has her MA in Human Services. His grandson (Andrew Chambers) is currently enrolled at Macomb Community College.

Schlinkert plans on retiring in a few years after a long and successful career. He said he is proud of his family and of all others who choose to pursue higher education, especially at a community college. 

“The cost of a college education at a private or state university has become prohibitive,” he said. “The opportunity for a student to take their core classes at a fraction of the cost at a community college should resonate as this next generation of college-aged student prepares for their next step.”

“Not every job requires a four-year degree in order to be successful either,” he continued. “In addition to preparing for a four-year degree, community colleges also offer technology and certification programs to train future employees for good paying jobs.”

Schlinkert also serves on his bank’s scholarship committee, which gives multiple scholarships every year to qualified and need-based area students going to West Shore Community College. He recently helped establish an internship program at the bank to identify current and future West Shore students who have the potential to succeed in the world of finance.

Former television news director prefers ‘paying it forward’

Simple beginnings don’t always make headline news, but one former television news director thinks it’s newsworthy that he got his start at St. Clair County Community College.

A 1966 graduate of SC4, Jim Collins interviewed people like former vice president Hubert Humphrey, reported on the great gasoline shortage of the 1970s and investigated deadly PCB’s in cattle feed.

“I was fulfilling a dream, exploring new areas, cultures and certainly opportunities,” he said. “It all started with a couple of years at SC4.”

Collins grew up in Emmett, the oldest of three children. He graduated from St. Stephen High School in 1964 and then decided to attend Port Huron Junior College, which a few years later became St. Clair County Community College.

“When it came time to attend college, (SC4) was the readily available and affordable option,” he said. “I was working to pay the bills on the night shift at a shop in Capac. My parents helped with some tuition, housing and meals and plenty of encouragement. Starting at a four-year school would have been wasted on me, not to mention totally out of reach financially. I wasn’t ready for it.”

Collins received his associate degree in spring of 1966 with plans to attend Michigan State University. He graduated from MSU with a Bachelor of Arts in television and radio in 1968. He was in East Lansing during “the height of the Vietnam War and a career path seemed difficult at best, but I was not drafted.”

He got his first job at a radio station in western Michigan and continued on to Wisconsin and Minnesota to pursue his career in radio news. Collins was working in Duluth, Minn., when he made the switch to television, which expanded the type of people he was able to interview.

“I considered myself fortunate to meet and talk one-on-one with people like Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale and others of note,” he said. “But it was often more interesting telling the stories of ordinary folks who were doing extraordinary things.”

They moved back to Michigan, with Collins working at WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, first as a reporter and then as the station’s assignment manager. He became a news director in Chattanooga, Tenn., and later Greensboro, N.C., for their CBS affiliate before finishing his career as the city of Greensboro’s communications manager.

“I feel very strongly that our society needs reporters asking hard questions, shining light into the dark spaces of lies, deceit and deception,” he said. “Finding people to ask those questions should not be limited to only those wealthy enough to attend a four-year institution. There are other means to achieve organized thought, writing and presentation skills.”

Collins supports giving today’s young people the opportunity to attend college.

“I recognize that people offering scholarships are often characterized as ‘paying it back’” he said. “I prefer ‘paying it forward’; leaving something for the future, and SC4 can certainly be a great place to start. I chose to support student scholarships at SC4, because I know it can mean something for a student to be able to open the door to an education.”


Three teams and 12 individuals are inducted in the Skippers Athletics Hall of Fame

Three teams and 12 individuals were inducted into the Skippers Athletics Hall of Fame Saturday, Feb. 22, at the SC4 Fieldhouse. It is the fourth class bringing the total of membership to forty-two individuals and 14 teams.

The three teams entering the Hall of Fame are the 1994 men’s golf team, coached by Ross Green; the 1994 baseball team, coached by Rick Smith; and the 1996-1997 women’s basketball team, coached by Chris Huss.

The individual inductees were women’s basketball player Taleesha Hardy; baseball players Dana Duskocy; Darby Parsons and Tyler Shantz; golfer Brian Bowman; softball player Marisa (Jensen) Pierce; men’s basketball players Mike Branaugh and Jeremy Denha; and volleyball player Morgan (Iloncaie) Fagerstrom. One athlete was inducted for two sports; Troy Dean played baseball and golf.

In addition to the players, two coaches were inducted, Ross Green coached golf and was the athletic director; and Rick Smith played baseball and returned to the college as a baseball coach.

The Skippers Athletics Hall of Fame is located in the SC4 Fieldhouse. To learn more about it and read their profiles, visit sc4.edu/halloffame.

SC4 alumnus living dreams thanks to good education

If there’s one thing St. Clair County Community College alumnus Jim Earley has learned as a lifelong educator and administrator, it’s the importance of a good education if you want to make dreams come true.

“My educational and career path provided the opportunity to live my dream—a dream of service and making a difference to help ensure the communities in which I lived were in a much better place,” he said.

Earley was the first in his family to go to college and found his start at SC4 after graduating from Port Huron High School in 1971.

“By the end of my high school sophomore year, I knew St. Clair County Community College was for me,” he said. “SC4 offered an exceptional opportunity to learn and grow while still being able to live at home and work. I was the first member of my family to attend college. I needed to work in order to pay for my educational expenses. Otherwise, college was not an option.”

While attending SC4, Earley worked at St. Joseph Catholic School in Port Huron teaching grade K-8 gym classes, supervising the lunch periods and coaching basketball. He earned his Associate of Science in 1973.

“My goal was achieved after two years of classes—an associate degree and no student debt,” he said. “My educational experience at SC4 was a springboard to five college degrees, including a Ph. D. I could not have achieved my goals without SC4 and the opportunity it provided.”

After SC4, Earley went on to Ferris State University to earn his Bachelor of Science in education with a major in chemistry.

Earley began officially teaching science and coaching basketball at Port Huron High School from 1975-80. He then relocated to Kofa High School, Yuma, Ariz., where he taught chemistry/physics and coached basketball and tennis from 1980-85.

He returned to Port Huron High School in 1985, teaching chemistry and science along with coaching basketball and tennis until 1996. At that time, Earley took on administrative roles as principal of Memphis High School (1996-97) and Imlay City High School (1998-2000) as well as Imlay City assistant superintendent of schools (2000-10).

He earned his master’s degree in educational administration from Northern Arizona University in 1985, an educational specialist degree from Oakland University in 1997 and a doctorate in philosophy from Oakland in 2009.

Earley has participated in basketball, baseball, softball, tennis and golf in the Port Huron area for 60 years. He officially retired on June 30, 2010, and now spends the winters in Florida. He is currently a member of the Port Huron Golf Club and Moorings Country Club in Naples, Fla.

“St. Clair County Community College provided an opportunity to pull myself out of a middle-class working household to the point where anything was possible,” he said. “My American dream was fully alive. The first steps were the hardest and toughest, and SC4 helped me to grow and prosper while opening my eyes to what was possible. The journey was not without failure as obstacles were navigated and circumvented. SC4 is the best value on the market!”



Creative director credits SC4 for helping develop his creative passion

Like many high school graduates, Jeffrey DeLange was not quite sure of his career path when he graduated from Algonac High School and enrolled at St. Clair County Community College in 1989.

“I was interested in being creative but did not really have a career path,” he said.

At SC4, DeLange took classes from a number of professors who helped him understand his interests and prepare for his next steps.

“My graphic design and fine arts professors helped in the development of my creative passion,” he said. “They also helped me with two years of portfolio preparation.”

DeLange earned an associate degree from SC4 and transferred to the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit in 1991. He graduated from CCS in 1995 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in industrial design.

Since graduating from CCS, DeLange has served in a wide array of creative roles, including senior industrial designer, creative director and an adjunct faculty design instructor. He currently serves as creative director for the George P. Johnson Co. where he helps power brand experiences.

“I have helped steer the ship on many creative challenges throughout my career that include tradeshow, event and auto show experiences,” DeLange said. “I have led several creative projects that have taken me to international locations to understand the brand, strategy, product and marketing objectives for large electronics and automotive companies. I am extremely passionate about design and innovation, and foster working in team environments.”

Having achieved great success in the creative space, DeLange clearly has found his calling—something he credits in large part to SC4.

“For any student interested in pursuing the next level of education but are truly not sure what or where that education will lead them, I would highly recommend community college to help build a better understanding of education and professional goals,” he said.

Globetrotting professional women’s basketball player grateful for SC4 experience

When she joined the St. Clair County Community College Skippers women’s basketball team in 2012, Rachel Kehoe never imagined her basketball career would lead her to play with professional teams in France, Spain, Malta, Germany, Serbia, Finland, Ireland and now Denmark.

“I chose SC4 because I liked how I fit with athletics and academics,” said the St. Clair High School graduate. “I also liked that there was one central campus.”

While Kehoe was with the Skippers, the team won the league, regional and state championships twice and competed in the national tournament.

But it wasn’t just on the court where Kehoe found support and success.

“I had some great SC4 teachers who were passionate about their work and subject,” she said. “They were always available to us for questions, feedback or guidance. Kraig Archer, Charles Meeker and Mary Kennedy were a few of my favorites. Plus, the staff of the Student Center—especially Brenda Rinke—was always helpful and my work as a student ambassador allowed me to be more involved in the community as well.”

Kehoe earned her Associate of Science degree in 2015 and transferred to Eastern Michigan University where she played on the Eagles women’s basketball team and studied psychology and communication. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree from EMU in 2016.

Since graduation, Kehoe has experienced great success overseas. Some of her most notable accomplishments include winning the league and the Louis Borge Cup with her team in Malta. She was also recognized on the All-Tournament team (2017) and Second All-Tournament Team (2018) in the Mediterranean Cup.

Kehoe signed with the Lemvig VP out of Denmark in January 2020 and looks forward to continued growth as a professional player.

Though a few years have gone by, she still credits SC4 for playing a large role in her success.

“SC4 helped prepare me for the next step in both my education and in basketball,” she said. “I benefitted from smaller class sizes and a warm and welcoming community. I left a lot more confident in myself and my future.”

Qatar native finds friendship, encouragement and passion at SC4

Qatar native Nasser Al-Attiyah found friendship, influential professors and a new passion nearly halfway around the world at St. Clair County Community College in Port Huron, Mich.

Nasser Al-Attiyah graduated in 2007 from Qatar Academy, an international I.B. school in Doha, Qatar. Connected to the Port Huron area through family members who had previously attended SC4, Al-Attiyah enrolled at the college in fall 2010.

“My cousin, a Port Huron local at the time, called SC4 an excellent starting spot for pursuing higher education,” Al-Attiyah said.

While at SC4, he joined the music club and participated in various campus activities, served as a student speaker for multiple events, and started his Tang Soo Do study at PKSA Karate Port Huron.

“Clubs and campus activities allowed me to bond with people at the college,” he said. “I met a few other students whom I am still in contact with today. Being able to break the initial barrier of meeting new people in a completely new environment at that stage was crucial to my acclimation. They were some great people too.”

According to Al-Attiyah, other great people he met included college faculty and staff members.

“Patricia and Jim Frank still remain as two of the most influential professors I’ve ever had at any level. They constantly pushed boundaries and prioritize learning and engaging discussions over grades and homework quotas,” he said. “And the administration as a whole was incredibly supportive when anything got confusing or needed straightening out. Pete Lacey, Carrie Bearss, and Angel Niederkohr, in particular, went above and beyond to make sure I was settled in and had everything in order. I am forever grateful for all they did.”

Al-Attiyah transferred from SC4 to Arizona State University in 2012 to study international agribusiness (food security issues) and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 2016.

Since graduation, he enlisted in Qatar’s Military Officer Cadet Program and currently holds the rank of Lieutenant. Following that, he joined Qatar’s government-run agricultural company Hassad Qatar where he is a member of the team that oversees operations.

Al-Attiyah also continued his training in Tang Soo Do. He earned a second degree black belt in 2018 and participated in the 16th World Tang Soo Do Championship, representing Qatar for the first time in the tournament as the sole member of the team, and winning the gold medal in heavyweight sparring on his first try.

“I have since been recognized as the highest-ranking Tang Soo Do black belt in Qatar (and the Gulf region as a whole), all thanks to the Tang Soo Do school which was initially across the street from SC4 in downtown Port Huron,” he said. “I still attend and visit twice a year to train with the same instructors that have been training me for more than nine years.”

While he aspires to further his martial arts training and open up his own school, Al-Attiyah really wants to lead the charge in advancing agriculture in his region.

“As one of the few people truly specialized in this field, it has become my responsibility to educate and inform as much as possible to help develop this sector,” Al-Attiyah said. “With my background and experiences at SC4 and ASU, I feel well equipped to have a great impact.”

SC4 alumnus making mark on communities and youth in Arizona, Washington

St. Clair County Community College alumnus Sean Barton is committed to providing stability and growth for communities and youth through sports and education.

Barton currently serves as director of curriculum and strategic initiatives at STEM Sports in Phoenix where he leads strategic planning efforts and manages and develops a curriculum that fuses STEM and sports for students in grades K through 8. Prior to that in Phoenix, he worked as chief operating officer at the NABI Foundation, which provides educational programs for Native youth.

“I feel fortunate and blessed to be compensated financially for my work – helping others through servant leadership in the education and athletic sphere. Yet the greatest compensation comes from doing something every day that is intrinsically valuable/that I love.”

Barton also left a sizeable footprint in the state of Washington via his roles at the Archdiocese of Seattle and the French American School of Puget Sound. He worked as the assistant director of athletics at the Archdiocese of Seattle and served as athletics director, extended day director, middle school physical education teacher and summer camp program director at the French American School of Puget Sound.

“The opportunity to work in settings that provide stability and growth for communities and youth brings me immense joy,” Barton said. “I aspire to continuously embrace and capitalize on opportunities that support educators, students, and parents and families throughout my career. This includes both professional and personal/volunteer work.”

A Port Huron Northern High School graduate, Barton attended SC4 on a basketball scholarship from 1996 to 1998. He attended SC4 again in 2005.

“SC4 provides a valuable, financially responsible academic experience for an array of ambitious minds, young and mature,” he said. “I had several quality courses and instructors during my tenure at SC4, which provided a solid foundation to succeed in both my academic and professional endeavors.”

Barton transferred his earned credits in 2006 to the University of Phoenix in Bellevue, Wash., graduating in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He then went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration with a focus on entrepreneurship from Northcentral University in 2014.

SC4 a great place to start according to alumnus Dan Damman

Attorney Daniel A. Damman says there’s no debate about it: St. Clair County Community College is the best place for area students to start their higher education.

A 1994 St. Clair High School graduate, Damman (pictured above with wife Therese) attended SC4 for two years, earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Michigan State University in 1999 and earned his Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University Law School in 2002.

After law school, Damman took over a New Baltimore law firm, changed the name to Damman Law Firm, PLC, and eventually moved it to Marysville and then St. Clair. He helped form Lord, Damman and VanDrew, PLC, in 2006 with partner Ken Lord and Dana VanDrew and later Damman VanDrew, PLC.

In June 2015 Damman and Nicole Winston founded the litigation firm Winston and Damman, PLLC, where they continue to practice law, including criminal defense, divorce and family law, personal injury, wrongful death and social security disability.

Damman, 44, formerly of Marysville and now St. Clair Township, was elected to the Marysville City Council in 2011 and mayor in 2013. He served three terms before stepping down to enter the candidacy for judge of the 31st Circuit Court. He and his wife, Therese, have two children, Emily, 20, and Mason, 18.

He said he decided his senior year of high school to attend SC4 after graduation and began in the fall of 1994.

“Being the youngest of four children – and the youngest by nearly nine years, I was not ready to leave my parents’ home,” Damman said. “I also wasn’t exactly sure where I wanted to go to obtain my bachelor’s degree.

“SC4 gave me some time to transition from high school into adulthood, obtain a great education at a fraction of the cost of a four-year university, get some college credits under my belt, and time to figure out where I wanted to go next.”

Damman said SC4 allowed him to obtain an excellent education from some extraordinary instructors close to home.

“I went to SC4 for two years; my wife attended SC4; my daughter attended SC4, first through dual enrollment and then for a year after high school; and my son attends SC4 right now through dual enrollment. SC4 was crucial in starting me on the path to where I am today, and I am proud to be a SC4 alumnus.”

In addition to proximity and quality instruction, Damman said SC4 is a smart financial decision for anyone considering higher education.

“What is crystal clear at this point in my life is that SC4 is one of the crown jewels of our area and people are wise to take advantage of what it has to offer. With the soaring cost of higher education, the ability for a high school student to earn college credits at no cost to the student, or his/her family, through dual enrollment or the Blue Water Middle College should be a no-brainer.

“Attending SC4 after graduation to earn credits at a fraction of the cost of a four-year university should also be given careful consideration for those students who want to start his or her education without back-breaking student debt. I believe that viewed through just about any lens, SC4 presents opportunity for everyone.”