SC4 student finds college success in TRIO program

When Mikayla Phetteplace decided to restart her college career in 2018, she attended an orientation session for the TRIO program. With a six-month-old baby girl, Mikayla’s schedule wasn’t flexible enough for on-campus classes and she was going to need some help getting back into the swing of college classes. SC4’s TRIO Student Support Services program looked like a great choice.

“After [the TRIO] orientation, I had an advising appointment,” Mikayla explains. “The advisor highly recommended TRIO. I was amazed at the opportunities and benefits of being in the program, so I didn’t hesitate to fill out the application.”

Mikayla has been in the TRIO program for five semesters, and she’s sure she wouldn’t have had the success she’s had at SC4 without it. “Shawne (Jowett, then-TRIO advisor and current Interim Director of the program) kept me on track and made sure that the classes I was taking were online and needed for me to graduate. The early enrollment opportunity and the tutoring were the services I benefited from the most.”

With a full-time job and family responsibilities, Mikayla’s biggest challenge is time, and the help provided by her instructors and the TRIO team has been essential. “There are never enough hours in the day,” she says. “I have found that the trick to having the time is making it. It has seemed impossible sometimes, but things always get accomplished by the deadline. I try to remind myself to breathe and always ask for help when I need it.”

While it was important that she was able to complete her associate degree in computer information systems completely online, being able to travel 30 minutes to campus if she needed additional help was also important to Mikayla’s success. “SC4 is local, so unlike some online schools where literally everything is done online, if I need to come to campus I can.”

Mikayla has had support from many SC4 faculty and staff, but she is particularly thankful for the support of three people. “I’m most grateful for Professor Colleen Forsgren. She has been the most supportive, informational, and just all-around the best professor I’ve had at SC4. I’ve learned so much under her instruction,” Mikayla says. “I’m also grateful to Amy (Hengehold, TRIO Support Staff Member) and Shawne. They’re both so wonderful.”

Because of her overall success at SC4 and the impact that the college’s TRIO SSS program has had on her, Mikayla is the TRIO Student of the Month for September 2020.

Mikayla is planning to graduate in December with her associate degree, and eventually hopes to transfer to a university to complete her bachelor’s degree. She currently works as an administrative assistant and she and her husband hoping to buy a home in the area to give their daughter a place to grow up in and enjoy.

“TRIO has been one of the brightest spots of my college career,” Mikayla says. “There is nothing not to like about TRIO. They are helpful, kind, supportive, and always there if anyone has questions or concerns.”

TRIO student keeps a focus on big goals

Nelson Thorn has big goals, but it hasn’t always been easy to keep moving toward them. Loss of close relatives and the financial burdens of being an independent student have meant that he’s had to keep focused on what he wants to accomplish in life. Fortunately, SC4’s TRIO program has been there to help, along with many other sources of support and encouragement on campus.

Initially, Thorn was attracted to the flexibility SC4’s nursing programs offered to students.

“I chose SC4 because of the programs, class sizes, resources, and student involvement,” he said. “And with the addition of the student housing, I had a place to call home for my first year. (Manager of college housing) Nathanial Shrapnell helped me tremendously.”

When personal difficulties happened, Thorn turned to SC4 campus resources for help.

“One of the hardest barriers to face was losing a few relatives. The staff and my professors helped me to stay in school and keep up my grade point average. And then I applied to the TRIO program.”

“TRIO gave me more personalized, hands-on help. I was struggling with deciding a major and planning my transfer pathway, and TRIO supported me in my academic success,” Thorn said. “I was also interested in the events TRIO holds for its students, including college tours, concerts, plays, and volunteer experiences.”

Thorn has plenty of people to thank for his success as a student at SC4, starting with TRIO staff support Amy Hengehold and director Jessica Brown and especially his TRIO advisor Shawne Jowett.

“I don’t know if I would be graduating without her help!” he said. Others who have been particularly inspirational are his first academic advisor Stacy Healy, SC4’s coordinator of student activities and services Sherry Artman, director of behavioral intervention and support services David Goetze, and Testing Center staff members Kim Heering and Kelly Lindsay.

“They have been unconditionally supportive and have been mentors to me, from just talking with me and allowing me to express myself to helping me find additional support and resources,” Thorn explained. “And special thanks to my friends who have become family and have been my rock for the past two years.”

Thorn plans to transfer to the University of Michigan to pursue bachelor’s degrees in psychology and business administration, with a concentration in entrepreneurship. He’d also like to complete a master’s degree before he turns 30.

He recommends TRIO to anyone who’s eligible for the program. “With longer advising appointments, support services, and tutoring, any college student would find TRIO beneficial.”

TRIO program student well-positioned for career success

St. Clair County Community College’s accounting program, along with the college’s proximity to home and student-to-instructor ratio, attracted student Jessica Gottschalk to SC4’s campus.

The Imlay City High School graduate first enrolled at SC4 in 2002, earning her Associate of Arts in 2006. She recently came back to the college to earn an Associate of Applied Arts & Sciences in General Business and is taking advantage of the college’s TRIO program, among other campus opportunities.

“A friend of mine spoke highly of the TRIO program, so I thought I would check it out,” Gottschalk said. “I like the tutoring option and the lab dedicated to just TRIO students. Both resources are major advantages.”

She added, “I would recommend TRIO to a classmate, particularly if they were feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of subjects that they were required to take. I was most concerned with Excel Spreadsheets and Federal Income Tax classes, and it helped to know that there is a tutor available that is a practicing accountant.”

In addition to the TRIO program, Gottschalk is grateful for the assistance she has received across SC4’s campus.

“I am thankful for all the amazing staff members that take the time to get to know the students and make sure that we are aware of all the resources available to us,” she said. “Many instructors will go the extra mile to make sure that we understand the course material, and that helps immensely.”

Gottschalk, who also credits her personal support system made up of family and friends, said she appreciates SC4’s many learning spaces.

“The Experience Center and Natural Science Museum in the Clara E. Mackenzie building is my favorite place on campus, other than the library,” she said. “I’m not taking any science classes, but I love science and I will make detours to wander through there from time to time.”

Moving forward, Gottschalk is excited about a number of potential options after earning her degree from SC4.

“I’m considering pursuing additional degrees in accounting and business management,” she said. “I have been interested in opening a bookstore downtown for quite some time, and that’s still a thought and possible goal. For now, though, I will be looking for work in bookkeeping, payroll and any other office type jobs to put this degree to use.”

TRIO student finds a new path forward at SC4

Employed for more than 10 years installing commercial fences, Thomas Short learned he was without a job when his company went under.

“I had to start over,” Short said. “I tried to find another steady job but a lot of the outdoor jobs I was qualified for are not steady and can end at any time.”

Due to the loss of his financial stability, Short says he began heading down a rough path, abusing substances and making bad decisions.

“After I lost my house, I was staying at my mother’s house and, with every day getting worse than the previous day, I knew something had to change,” he said. “I thought about what kind of example I was setting for my children and decided that I would show them the example that I want them to follow.”

Short set out to earn his G.E.D, which took about three or four months. He then was asked if he was going to pursue college.

“That was something I had never thought about,” Short said. “Again thinking about my children, I decided to show them that ‘Dad can do it and so can you.’”

Short enrolled at St. Clair County Community College in 2018 and applied for the TRIO program.

“The last time I attended any kind of school was in the eighth grade,” he said. “When I came to college, I was super nervous about the process and had no clue how a system like this was supposed to work. I heard that TRIO was known for its academic planning.”

Since then, TRIO has helped Short plan and register for classes and generally stay on track. TRIO also provided support services that Short never anticipated.

“TRIO made me feel like part of something bigger than myself,” Short said. “They gave me confidence, and I feel the self-confidence I gained reflected directly into my grades. Trio took the butterflies and self-doubt out of being a brand-new college student, and I am sincerely grateful for the program.”

In addition to the TRIO program, Short says he’s very thankful for the support he’s found in his SC4 professors.

“I have been honored to learn from the most caring and helpful professors that a student could ask for,” he said. “The one-on-one attention has really shown the advantage of a community college. I am grateful for all of my professors, but a few that really stand out for me: Professor Lubbers, who taught me to be more outgoing as a student; Instructor Gentry, who taught me that if I do something great don’t be afraid to let people know that I’ve done something great; and Professor Forsgren and Professor Collard, who challenged my way of thinking and pushed me to challenge myself harder than I ever thought I was capable of.”

Thanks to support from his professors and TRIO, Short continues his forward momentum toward a new career.

“My goal is to get into a steady career in technology so I won’t have to worry about where my children’s next meal will come from,” he said. “Also, part of the reason I started college was to provide a good example for my children to follow and learn from. The ultimate goal is to ready my children for a better future than I was on the way to providing them before. Now here I am, full speed ahead and will never look back.”

TRIO program provides support, helps student match courses to interests

David Moldenhauer chose St. Clair County Community College due to his interest in both the arts and social sciences. It didn’t hurt, of course, that his father is Robert Moldenhauer, a longtime SC4 professor of anatomy.

“I am grateful for the fact that I have a family member who is a college professor, and that SC4 is just a short drive away from my home, which makes getting to the college and back really easy,” Moldenhauer said.

Like many students, Moldenhauer has been faced with potential barriers and has worked hard to overcome them.

“I had to take some required courses for graduation such as English and some sciences that I had no interest in,” he said. “Once I was in the classroom, I was willing to do whatever it took to get a good grade in those courses, though, and I managed to pass the classes without any problems.”

Moldenhauer received assistance and support from SC4’s TRIO program.

“TRIO helped me figure out what I should do in order to progress through my time at SC4 in a successful and progressive way,” he said. “It also helped me figure out what college courses are best suited for my interests and abilities.”

According to Moldenhauer, who will soon graduate with an Associate Degree in Arts, he recommends new students connect with TRIO or the Achievement Center right away.

“I’m very grateful for the support of TRIO and its staff,” he said. “They really did help me maximize my success.”

Non-traditional student finds additional support with TRIO program

As a non-traditional student, Michelle Ward wanted additional support when she enrolled in St. Clair County Community College’s Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program. She found it in SC4’s TRIO program.

“I heard SC4 had a great nursing program, but enrolling in college at my age combined with years of feeling inadequate only increased my lack of confidence,” Ward said. “I applied to the TRIO program for the additional support.”

Thanks to TRIO resources such as tutoring and printing, combined with TRIO’s helpful staff, Ward found the support she was looking for – and then some.

“Little did I realize how valuable this program would be to me,” Ward said. “The TRIO staff has been encouraging and supportive beyond my expectations. They have helped me overcome obstacles in a variety of ways. Every test I have taken and passed, assures me that I can do this and keeps driving me to face the next challenge. The support I have received is immeasurable.

“Specifically, I would thank Shawne Jowett for her commitment to her students, great listening skills and helpfulness. Jessica Brown’s professionalism, willingness to help and positive energy make a huge difference. Without Amy Hengehold’s help, I would have been lost. Kristy Jevens is a breath of fresh air. Always positive, encouraging and helpful.”

With the positive support and sense of belonging Ward received from TRIO and SC4, she remains focused on accomplishing her goal of graduating from the LPN program in December. She also looks forward to working in hospice home care and serving future patients with the utmost care and respect.

TRIO Student of the Month: Lori Aftab

I chose to attend SC4 because I had wanted to go back to school for years but was afraid I couldn’t do it. I began looking into it after I got a divorce. I lived nearby so SC4 was the first college I looked into. I was accepted into the Health Information Technology program and it was a perfect fit.

I am a single mom, and I decided to go back to school as my oldest son was beginning college. Despite the challenges I faced, once I made the decision to go back to college, I quit letting problems become road blocks and treated them like speed bumps. We will always have challenges, but it is up to us how we react to them.

My first semester at SC4 I met someone who was part of the TRIO program, and she encouraged me to check it out. TRIO has been a great tool for me. I tend to do my homework in the Achievement Center, so TRIO is very convenient. Shawne Jowett has been a tremendous help with counseling on classes, financial aid and more. Amy Hengehold is always there to talk and help out in any way possible. I really appreciate the one-on-one counseling. It is priceless in this environment to have counselors who know you and understand your situation. I would definitely recommend the program to students. In fact, I already have, and many are now members.

There are so many people I am grateful for at SC4. When I’m here, I really feel like I am at home. My program director Karen Wilson and instructor Michelle Kelch deserve so much recognition. They made the program a pleasant experience and created a friendly, supportive environment.

After graduation, I will be working on my RHIT certification. Once I accomplish that, I am going to work on getting a job in the medical coding field. I will be moving more toward Detroit, where there are more coding jobs available. Once I am settled in, I plan to continue my education at Ferris State University, where I will pursue my bachelor’s in health information management.

TRIO Student of the Month: Tonya Taormino

I chose to attend SC4 because it was close to home and offered a great criminal justice program with a strong reputation.

As an older, nontraditional college student, I had a hard time developing the skills needed to handle the heavy load of schoolwork and a demanding home life. I applied for the TRIO program to take advantage of the more personal tutoring help they offer. The program has helped me keep on track by monitoring my grades and offering early registration to help me get into classes I need that usually fill up fast. After juggling some responsibilities and getting help from TRIO, I have excelled and even received Presidential Honors in three different semesters.

I can’t recommend the TRIO program enough. The staff takes a personal interest in your success, and I would not have made it to graduation without their help. Advisor Shawne Jowett has spent countless hours helping me get into the courses I need to graduate and laying out a detailed plan for the years I’d be at SC4. I’m a planner, and I needed to know what I was going take every semester. Shawne was invested in me and helped me reach my goals.

In the fall, I plan to return to the SC4 campus as a Ferris State student, taking classes at the University Center to earn my bachelor’s in criminal justice. I hope to find a rewarding career at a drug treatment center.

TRIO Student of the Month: Nicholas Reese

I chose to attend SC4 because it’s close to home, but I mostly chose the college for the reputation of its nursing program.

Working full-time while being in the nursing program can be tough. Working every afternoon takes time away from studying, so I’m usually staying up late to study because that’s when I can find the time. Time management is key to success when it comes to juggling a lot of responsibilities, and there have been many nights with only few hours of sleep just to get by in school. Financial barriers can also be challenging. I have been paying for half of the program costs out of pocket, but I look at the debt as an investment in my future that will pay off soon after graduation.

After I graduated high school I took two years off to manage some personal matters. I was salutatorian in high school, so I knew how to do well academically — my problem was making myself start up again. After talking with a close family friend, she recommended applying to the TRIO program at SC4. The more I learned about it, the more comfortable I felt going back to school again.

When I went to register for classes, I was clueless. I am a first-generation college student, so I had no idea how to register and what to register for. I went to TRIO for follow-up advising, and I left feeling relieved and confident. TRIO helped me complete all my prerequisites one year before applying to the nursing program, keeping me on track and able to focus on what’s important. Support services such as early registration allowed me to get the classes and instructors that I needed, and the TRIO staff has been so helpful. They are hardworking, dedicated individuals who truly advocate for students’ success.

I would strongly recommend TRIO to other students. They have even more support services than I was able to take advantage of for myself. Any person who wants a better learning experience with superior guidance should apply.

I am in my last semester of the nursing program. After graduation, studying and passing state boards are a priority so I can obtain my licensure to practice. Eventually, I would like to return to SC4 to take prerequisites for the B.S.N. program at Eastern Michigan University. When I get my B.S.N., I’ll continue to work until I find an area I want to specialize in — I look forward to figuring all of that out along the way.

TRIO Student of the Month: Mackenzie Hiller

I initially chose SC4 because they offered online classes, which I was eager to try because I was not very comfortable with the traditional classroom environment in high school. I loved being able to work independently at my own pace and create my own schedule. When I started at SC4 last summer, I was surprised to learn that college is so much more than just going to class — I realized that I can express myself. In college, and specifically at SC4, students can personalize their education to fit their interests. Though my main area of interest was the arts, I will be graduating this May with three honors degrees: associate of arts, associate of science and associate of general education.

I heard about the TRIO program when I had my first advising appointment after applying to SC4. What interested me was the priority registration and personalized advising. Throughout high school, I would have to constantly remind the staff who I was, so it was a very nice change to come to SC4 and have professors and advisors remember not just my name but many other things about me.

Some of my biggest challenges have come with being a first-generation college student. Neither of my parents went to college, so I sometimes felt lost. Another large barrier in my life has been my mental health — I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression when I was 14. It not only affects my educational journey but my everyday life as well.  I am grateful to all the people in the TRIO program who are patient with me and help me understand things that I don’t really know anything about. The support seminars and personalized advising have been a great help as I try to make college simpler when I can. College is a lot more than the classes — it’s also figuring out how to pay for your education, where to transfer, what program you want to be in and what career you want to have when you graduate. It is incredibly helpful to know there are people in TRIO there to help me.

TRIO has been such a great program for me I feel like it would be wrong not to recommend it to other students. Being a first-generation student is not easy, but having all the people in TRIO there to answer your questions makes things a lot easier. College can be daunting, but having the TRIO team there every step of the way is something I couldn’t do without. Amy Hengehold and Shawne Jowett have been such a great source of support in my education. I wouldn’t have been nearly as motivated without their help.

Applying to SC4 for me was a snap decision — I knew I wanted to go to college, but I wasn’t sure where to start. My future goals involve simply doing things that I want to do, whether it be a dream I’ve wanted to realize for years or just another snap decision. I would like to travel and see different parts of the world, especially Japan. I also hope to pursue a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in film.