Registration open for SC4’s Golf Classic to benefit student-athletes

The St. Clair County Community College Athletic Department will host the SC4 Golf Classic on Friday, July 22, at Marysville Golf Course. Participants will enjoy 18 holes of golf with friends to support student-athletes.

This year’s event is sponsored by Joe Mericka in honor of his sister Georgette “Gigi” Mericka. As both a community and SC4 supporter, Gigi assisted in securing sponsorships and helped make the SC4 golf outing a success for many years.

“We are grateful for the ongoing community support of Skippers Athletics and our students,” said SC4 Athletic Director Dale Vos. “This event is a great opportunity for us to come together, have some fun and help our hard-working student athletes pursue a college degree.”

The four-person scramble is limited to the first 32 teams to register. The cost is $125 per golfer or $500 per team. Registration for golfers and additional sponsorship opportunities are available online at sc4.edu/thepier/golf.

Check in begins at 11:30 a.m. with a shotgun start at 12:30 p.m. Dinner, awards and prizes will begin at 4:30 p.m.

For more information, contact Dale Vos at (810) 989-5671 or email dvos@sc4.edu.

Successful boutique law firm owner thankful for SC4 start

Successful law firm owner, venture capitalist, community volunteer and advocate, and St. Clair County Community College (SC4) alumnus Gerry Mason has made his mark in Michigan. 

Mason owns a boutique law firm and practices law throughout Michigan, often in joint ventures with significant law firms. He is also active in the areas of private equity investment, small business, venture capital, renewable energy and technology. He’s worked as a City of Detroit Recorder’s Court Law Clerk, as a Macomb County Law Clerk for the Hon. Pat M. Donofrio, and served as a Special Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford, Roscommon and Macomb Counties. 

He’s a member of St. Clair Rotary Club (Past President); Salvation Army Advisory Board Vice Chairman; St. Clair Police Foundation Vice Chairman; State Bar of Michigan Representative Assembly Vice Chairman; State Bar of Michigan Board of Commissioners Member; American Battery Technology Company Advisory Board Member; Voise Inc. Advisory Board Member—and much more.

His many accomplishments are the result of hard work, commitment and dedication to his goals and community. They also help highlight the critical role community colleges like SC4 can play in the educational journey of Michigan residents.

When Mason graduated from St. Clair High School in 1986, he initially enrolled at Michigan Technological University to be a geological engineer.

“I was not ready for a big university,” Mason said. “My dad thought that I should be an attorney and do political science as an undergraduate degree. My friends were at SC4 so I could get a ride. My mom took me to SC4 and enrolled me. Everyone at SC4 was warm and helpful. I loved it. It was college.”

While at SC4 from 1986-1988, Mason participated in student government. He also fully engaged in the classroom and benefitted from great professors and mentors.

“SC4 had excellent professors who cared about their students,” he said. “Harley Smith was great. He taught political science but never showed his views or any bias. He was always totally objective. Virginia Pillsbury taught German, but really she was teaching life. Haddock Snyder taught physics. Professor Snyder had tons of energy and made science fun. Calculus Professor Joe Delisa and I used to eat lunch together. I made friends with other professors like Bob Tansky. Great people.”

Mason transferred from SC4 to the University of Michigan on the advice of SC4 Professor Pillsbury. “All of my credits transferred, saving me $22,000 at that time,” Mason said.

He enrolled in the U-M College of Literature, Science and Art, majoring in political science and minoring in German, Russian and natural science. While there, Mason studied China under Professor Kenneth Lieberthal and spent a semester in the former Soviet Union. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1991 and then went on to enroll in law school at the Detroit College of Law, which became Michigan State University College of Law.

At MSU, Mason served as President of Student Government and Executive Lt. Governor of the American Bar Association, and graduated as Class President. According to Mason, law school challenged him in new ways.

“Law school was hard, fast and intense,” said Mason, who earned a juris doctorate in 1998. “You drank from a fire hose. A law degree teaches you how to think, and organize your oral and written arguments. I felt ready to take it on, though, thanks to the foundation I received at SC4, which made college fun, challenging and attainable.”

The college football, blues music and exercise fan has been putting his well-crafted thoughts to use and taking action ever since—and has no plans of stopping anytime soon.

“I’d like to do more by way of venture capital/private equity collaborations as well as continue charity and community work,” Mason said. “I really want to give back to the practice of law, and I will continue to be an advocate for community colleges like SC4. SC4 gave me a great start to life that I could build upon. Academia can be elitist and exclusive. SC4 offers every student the opportunity to be more than they are and all that they hoped to be by laying the foundation for future opportunities.”

New study shows SC4’s economic impact on students, taxpayers and society

More 2022 Commencement images

St. Clair County Community College (SC4) provides enormous economic value to St. Clair County and the surrounding area, generating more than $137 million in total economic impact.

The figure is among key findings of a newly released study by the nationally recognized economic research firm Emsi Burning Glass, which uses labor market statistics to measure the social as well as the economic impact of the community college in the region.

The study shows a high rate of return on investment for students, taxpayers and society. 

Students enjoy a 14.5 percent rate of return on their educational investment at SC4. For every $1 students invest, they’ll receive $3.80 in higher future earnings than their non-degree holding peers.

Taxpayers receive a high rate of return on their investment as well. State and local funding of $18.9 million in the study year generated $35.6 million in total benefits through added public sector revenue and savings derived through improved alumni salaries and lifestyles. This means for every tax dollar spent educating students attending SC4, taxpayers receive an average of $2.00 in return over the course of the students’ working lives—an annual rate of return of 4.3 percent.

Society invested $48.4 million in SC4 in FY 2020-21. This includes the college’s expenditures, student expenses, and student opportunity costs. In return, the state of Michigan will receive an estimated present value of $417 million in added state revenue over the course of the students’ working lives.

Michigan will also benefit from an estimated $9.5 million in present value social savings related to reduced crime, lower welfare and unemployment, and increased health and well-being across the state. Every dollar society invests in SC4 yields an average of $8.80 in benefits to society.

“The college naturally helps students achieve their individual potential and develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities they need to have fulfilling and prosperous careers,” the report states. “However, SC4 impacts St. Clair County beyond influencing the lives of students. The college’s program offerings supply employers with workers to make their businesses more productive. The college, its day-to-day operations, its construction activities, and the expenditures of its students support the county economy through the output and employment generated by county vendors. The benefits created by the college extend as far as the state treasury in terms of the increased tax receipts and decreased public sector costs generated by students across the state.”

The study showed that in FY 2020-21, operations, construction and student spending of SC4, together with the enhanced productivity of its alumni, generated $137.7 million in added income for the St. Clair County economy— equal to approximately 2.3 percent of the total gross regional product (GRP) of St. Clair County. 2,041 jobs exist in the county because of the economic impact of SC4.

SC4 students, both drawn to and retained in the area because of the college, added $855,200 to the regional economy. The impact of SC4 alumni, including thousands employed in St. Clair County, amounted to $112.9 million in added income for the St. Clair County economy.

Michigan’s community colleges enroll nearly the same amount of students as Michigan’s public four-year colleges and universities. Historically, community colleges such as SC4 offer more affordable tuition, quality programs, enhanced personalized attention and support, flexible options and seamless transfer pathways.

SC4 alumni honor parents, support future generations with scholarships and grants

St. Clair County Community College (SC4) alumni Martha Foley and Dan Fredendall recently created the Therese A. Foley Student Assistance Fund and the Eileen M. and Lawrence D. Fredendall Scholarship Fund—as well as provided grants for the Challenger Learning Center at SC4 and other student support initiatives—to honor the lives and legacies of their parents.

“They were all such strong, selfless and caring role models,” said Martha, who met Dan at SC4 before they both transferred to Michigan State University. “They were committed to advancing the well-being of others within the Blue Water area. These scholarships and grants honor their work and ‘pay-it-forward’ commitment to others.”

Martha’s mother, Therese, was the youngest of 11 children from the east side of Detroit, who became a devoted mother of six, a registered nurse, and an environmental and public health activist, finishing her career as a clinical nursing instructor at SC4. Her father, Maurice was altruistic and driven, attended Assumption College in Windsor, Ontario after high school, served in the Navy during WWII, then finished his bachelor’s degree from Assumption after the war. After early jobs in the Fenton area, Maurice started working as a teacher. He taught middle school mathematics in Detroit and Port Huron schools for almost 35 years, served as supervisor of Fort Gratiot Township for eight years in the 1980s, and was active in the Society of St Vincent de Paul for decades.

Eileen Fredendall, born in Port Huron, was a committed mother of nine, a registered nurse and a community volunteer. Dan’s father, Lawrence, came to Port Huron from Iowa after high school. He served in the Army Air Corps during WWII and was the first in his family line to go to college. After marrying Eileen, he earned an associate degree from Port Huron Junior College (SC4) under the GI Bill while working full time. An entrepreneur, Lawrence owned or managed a variety of businesses and finished his career with Serve-All Appliance. He was most proud of his work with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, including revitalizing the stores in the greater metro Detroit area, and was instrumental in launching the Blue Water Community Food Depot.

Their parents had similar backgrounds and experiences and, unbeknownst to Martha and Dan, they knew each other before Martha and Dan met. Both mothers attended three-year, hospital-based nursing degree programs as United States Cadet Nurse Corps, finishing just after WWII ended. Their fathers were both involved at their parish churches in community outreach and knew each other through their work with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

“They all poured themselves out to others,” Dan said. “Whether that was in the hospital, the classroom, taking someone into their home, or in the community, they gave others the best of themselves, even when it may have been difficult. There was always someone else who needed more and they helped provide it.”

By creating these scholarships and grants through the SC4 Foundation held at the Community Foundation of St. Clair County, Martha and Dan are following in their parents’ footsteps and encouraging future generations to do the same. They both recognize that community college is an important bridge for many students to make the transition between high school graduation and success in a bachelor’s degree at the university level, particularly for a first-generation college student.

The Therese A. Foley Student Assistance Fund and the Eileen M. and Lawrence D. Fredendall Scholarship Fund will be awarded in perpetuity to SC4 students pursuing nursing or a STEM-related program. The grants will support access to missions at the Challenger Learning Center at SC4 as well as potential tuition assistance for disadvantaged students, Skip’s Corner Pantry support, ad hoc student assistance for one-time unanticipated events or housing support.

“We are beyond grateful to Martha and Dan for their generous support,” said Dr. Deborah A. Snyder, SC4 president. “It’s clear Martha and Dan’s parents were incredible individuals and role models for their families and communities. Thanks to their parents’ example, they are now doing the same for a whole new generation of students. The impact of their parents’ lives and work will continue to be felt for years to come.”

Community Foundation Vice President Jackie Hanton added, “Martha and Dan were thoughtful and impact-driven with their major gift. They were able to make a bigger impact on future students because they gifted stock. When appreciated stock is gifted, the donors do not have to pay capital gains tax. It is truly a win-win that will have lasting implications in the lives of so many future students.”

Dan and Martha recently visited SC4’s campus and reflected on their and Therese’s time there.

“That’s the first time we’ve been back to campus in a long time,” Martha said. “Back when Therese taught Nursing at the College, they learned by way of practicing on each other. She would be astonished and thrilled to see the technology and spaces in the Health Sciences Building. It’s an impressive facility.”

For more information, contact the Financial Aid Office at financialaid@sc4.edu or (810) 989-5530.

SC4 seeking employers for Career Fair April 28

The 2022 St. Clair County Community College Career Fair will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. Thursday, April 28. The event will bring hundreds of students, alumni and community members to the SC4 Fieldhouse in search of career opportunities.

The college is partnering with the Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County, Macomb/St. Clair Michigan Works!, the City of Port Huron/McMorran Place and SC4’s TRIO Program for this year’s event, and is currently seeking employers in search of qualified candidates for their open positions.

“The Career Fair is a great opportunity for employers in our region to showcase their company, network with other employers, and above all, find the best candidates from our community’s rich talent pool,” said Bonnie DiNardo, executive director of community and public relations at SC4. Participating employers also have the opportunity to post positions on Career Coach, the college’s online employment system for students and alumni.

The Career Fair is expected to fill to capacity this year — interested employers are encouraged to register as early as possible, but no later than April 14. Employers can find detailed information and convenient online registration at sc4.edu/careerfair.

Cindy Rourke named recipient of SC4 Alumni of the Year award

Well-known community advocate and supporter Cindy Rourke has been named the recipient of the 2020 St. Clair County Community College Alumni of the Year award after a pause in award distribution due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was so surprised to receive the 2020 Alumni of the Year Award,” Rourke said. “It is an honor just to be considered let alone to receive the award.”

Rourke enrolled as a student at SC4 in 1968, as did her husband of 38 years, Jim Rourke, and many of her friends and family members.

“For most of us, we were the first in our family to attend college,” Cindy said. “None of our families had much money and we all knew that SC4 would be our stepping stone to the future.  My education at SC4 prepared me for going on to Western Michigan University. I also had great fun there playing euchre in the union and as a work study student in the library. That’s how and why I chose library science as my career path.”

Fortunately for the College and community, Cindy and Jim made their way back from WMU and the University of Michigan to the Port Huron area after receiving their bachelor’s degrees and began work at SC4 and Mueller Brass, respectively.

Cindy served in a variety of library, technology and support-based roles in her 28-year career at SC4, including dean of the Library and the Achievement Center. Among many other notable achievements, Cindy played a key role in the library design when the library was moved from the Clara E. Mackenzie Building to the College Center.

Throughout their professional careers and beyond, both Cindy and Jim believed greatly in SC4’s mission of maximizing student success through an accessible, high-quality education at an affordable price.

Cindy and Jim, who passed in November 2015, created the James Rourke Family Education Fund with a $100,000 donation to the SC4 Foundation to provide scholarship support to graduating seniors from St. Clair and Port Huron high schools to attend SC4.

“SC4 is still the best thing going for this area as demonstrated by its longevity in the community,” Cindy said. “It is the same stepping stone for many as it was for me. My husband was always very supportive of SC4 and encouraged his employees at Mueller Brass to attend as well. We decided that it was important to fund scholarships that would enable students to attend SC4.”

Cindy retired from SC4 in 2010 but remains actively involved in the College’s retirement group and within the campus community, as well as with the United Way. Community residents also can see Cindy and Jim’s generous support at McLaren Port Huron, where many SC4 graduates thrive working as healthcare professionals.

“We are thrilled to provide this award to Cindy,” said Dr. Deborah A. Snyder, president of St. Clair County Community College. “Her legacy as an alumna, professional, supporter, advocate and friend of SC4 is remarkable. She and Jim will continue to impact the lives of area residents for years to come and, for that, we are forever grateful.”

Alumnus Robert G. Sargent, Ph.D., establishes scholarship fund to support students pursuing engineering

Robert G. Sargent, Ph.D.

Future St. Clair County Community College students will benefit from a new endowment fund held at the Community Foundation thanks to a gift from Robert G. Sargent, Ph.D., an SC4 alumnus and professor emeritus at Syracuse University, to provide two scholarships each year to students who plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

“I attended SC4 in 1954 through 56 when it was Port Huron Junior College,” Sargent said. “I came from a working-class family and didn’t have any money to pursue an education at a university. I had decided to obtain a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering because I enjoyed math and science in high school and had received several awards for my electrical projects in 4-H. Port Huron Junior College provided the opportunity I needed to get an outstanding education for the first two years of pursuing my engineering degree.”

Sargent is now known as a world-renowned pioneer and authority in simulation work, receiving many career awards and presenting at lectures in the United States and around the world.

He, along with his 1950’s SC4-to-U-M engineering alumni peers, recently visited SC4 and took a campus tour with Bonnie DiNardo, SC4 executive director of community and public relations.

“We hadn’t been to the college in years and were very impressed by the size of the campus and the technology being used, especially in STEM-based facilities such as the Health Sciences Building, the Experience Center and the Challenger Learning Center,” Sargent said.

He added, “None of us probably would have gone to college without SC4. There are endless possibilities in STEM careers—especially in engineering fields—and a tremendous need. People can have a great life, income and support. Community colleges like SC4 can continue to play a huge role, and scholarships can help students pursue such fields for years to come.”

Sargent has established The Robert G. Sargent Scholarship Fund through the SC4 Foundation held at the Community Foundation that helps SC4 engineering students with financial need who plan to transfer on to a university to further pursue their engineering education.

“Helping such a distinguished alumni, like Dr. Sargent, plan a major gift to the college was a pleasure. He knew exactly what he wanted to do for the students and I was happy to help him finalize a qualified charitable distribution that meant his gift was not only very meaningful and impactful but provided a tax savings for him as well,” said Jackie Hanton, Vice President for the Community Foundation of St. Clair County.

Sargent graduated from St. Clair High School after attending a one-room schoolhouse located in St. Clair Township where he was the only pupil in some of his grades. He was the first in his family to attend college.

While a student at SC4, Sargent participated on the tennis team, in Circle K, bowling and with the Letterman’s club—and worked multiple jobs to pay his college tuition. He also connected with a large group of about 12 like-minded students with whom he’d stay in touch throughout his lifetime.

Sargent earned an Associate of Science degree from SC4 before transferring to the University of Michigan where he roomed with fellow SC4 alumni. “All of us who went on from SC4 to U-M together were well prepared,” said Sargent, who continued to juggle jobs while a full-time U-M student.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan, Sargent accepted a position at Hughes Aircraft where he received his first exposure to digital computers. He returned to school after two and a half years in the industry to pursue a Ph.D. in simulation.

After receiving his doctoral degree, Sargent joined Syracuse University to participate in their new Systems and Information Science graduate program. Shortly after his arrival, Sargent became involved in contractual research between the United States Air Force and Syracuse University. His work in simulation was sponsored by both institutions, creating an environment and relationship in which he could foster significant contributions to the field throughout his career.

“We thank Dr. Sargent for his generous gift to help SC4 students and for his continued advocacy of community college pathways for transfer students and degrees,” said Dr. Deborah Snyder, SC4 president. “SC4 alumni such as Dr. Sargent are doing remarkable work. His distinguished career in simulation has impacted countless individuals, here in Michigan and around the world.”

SC4 students can apply for the Sargent scholarships for engineers beginning in 2023. Selection will be based on financial need with a preference for students transferring to a university to pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

The SC4 Foundation connects donors with opportunities to support St. Clair County Community College in whatever way fits their interests. Whether it’s supporting students, opportunities on campus or enhancements of learning spaces, the SC4 Foundation is proud to support our community’s college.

St. Clair County Community College and the Community Foundation bring to the area a combined 175 years of service to the community in education and philanthropy. Since 2018, the collaborative philanthropic partnership between the organizations allows donors to have an even greater impact on both SC4 students and the community.

NASA learning experience inspires Robert Hilgendorf’s educational journey

St. Clair County Community College (SC4) alumnus Robert Hilgendorf had his sights set on graduation in his last semester at SC4 when a unique opportunity presented itself. In October 2020, he saw a campus announcement to students about the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program.

“Every time I logged in I saw the posting, I finally decided to research it,” said Hilgendorf. “Once I realized it not only was an opportunity to learn more about NASA but also work on developing my talents, I applied.”

Hilgendorf’s application was accepted and he participated in a five-week online NCAS course where he learned about the history of NASA and gained insight into future NASA initiatives. As part of the experience he attended meetings with NASA engineers and experts on topics ranging from mission launches to rover landings. “It was an eye-opening experience into how NASA’s work has impacted our life here on Earth,” continued Hilgendorf.

His favorite part of the course included details about the Artemis mission, which will return a United States crew to the Moon and eventually Mars. Hilgendorf stated, “It was amazing to see all the STEM-related disciplines required to develop and plan the mission.”

In March 2021, Hilgendorf was excited to learn that based upon his participation in the course and the final paper he submitted, he was selected to participate in a nine-day NASA virtual experience.

According to Hilgendorf, the virtual experience continued on from where the course left off. His daily calendar included speakers, intern panels, hangouts with engineers and mission meetings. Participants were divided into teams that were tasked with developing a successful mission to the Moon or Mars. Teams were responsible for defining missing goals and objectives; maintaining a balanced budget, projecting launch schedules; and specifying all systems, instruments and scientific payloads required.

Hilgendorf put his engineering degree to use as a systems engineer — in charge of rocket, surface mobility and entry/descent/landing selections. His team presented a successful mission to a panel of NASA judges.

”This experience is an invaluable resource for anyone unsure about how to reach their goals, wondering which STEM field to choose, or just not sure they can do it,” Hilgendorf said. “The program not only provides an incredible sense of accomplishment but helps develop the skills employers are looking for. I would definitely recommend it to others.”

The NCAS program provides experience, knowledge and networking opportunities that can become a foundation for a student’s future and career. NASA has an internship program that places a high value on applicants who’ve completed the NCAS program.

“When opportunities come your way, you must jump on them, and this is one you shouldn’t let pass by,” said Hilgendorf, who earned an Associate of Arts and Science in engineering technology-electronics in May 2021. “The NASA experience helped me solidify my education plans moving forward. Education is so important and truly opens doorways that would never become available without it.”

He is now planning to work on a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, thanks to his NCAS experience and the instructors at SC4.

”I cannot think of one single course or instructor at SC4 that didn’t help prepare me in one way for this program.” he said, noting that the skills gained in engineering technology, research, paper writing, public speaking, English, math, group projects and science labs all played a role in preparing him for the NASA experience and for his future career. “A special thanks to Instructor Dan Bishop and Professor Don Reuba, who took the time to write recommendation letters to apply to the NCAS program.”

If you are interested in learning more about STEM programs at SC4, visit sc4.edu/programs.

For more information on the aerospace scholars program, visit go.nasa.gov/ncas.


SC4 campus culture and interaction helped alumnus Christian Jones grow and thrive

Driving through the neighborhood he serves as Executive Director of the Franklin Avenue Mission on the east side of Flint, Rev. Christian Jones sees the immediate realities of loss of jobs and lack of food that happened when the city lost its auto industry employers over the past few decades.

“There are families – men, women, and children – living in absolute, destitute poverty,” Jones said. “Homes are abandoned, burned out, and in some cases even lack running water. If the water is running, there’s little motivation for owners to renovate the pipes to mitigate the lead exposure of their tenants. Most of the schools have been boarded up and abandoned, too.”

The Franklin Avenue Mission serves this community through three key areas: The Franklin Avenue Diner, which served warm, well-balanced meals twice a week during the pandemic (a total of nearly 40,000 so far); the Clothes Closet and Personals Closet, which provide clothing and hygienic products to those who can’t afford them; and the new Luke Clinic will open this fall, providing free mobile prenatal and antenatal health services to mothers trapped in poverty.

Jones’ faith led him to devote his time and energy to the underserved and often forgotten residents of Flint. But his journey began over a decade ago on the campus of St. Clair County Community College.

“I started at SC4 in 2010,” Jones explained. “My father is a criminal justice professor at the college, which played a key factor in my decision to start there. It unquestionably made the most economic sense, and it allowed me to complete my associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees for a fraction of the cost of many of my friends.”

Jones has many great memories of his time at SC4 that go well beyond saving money, though.

“Being a student at SC4 was probably the most important and formative two years of my life,” he said. “It’s where I matured from being a high school kid into becoming an adult member of the community. I met my wife as a student at SC4. Some of the closest friends I’ve ever had were introduced to me as a student and through student activities.”

“I had some anxiety at first as I wrestled with the fact than most of my lifelong friends immediately dove into the idealized university model,” he continued. “But when I realized that many of my new SC4 classmates were experiencing the same anxiety, it created such a beautiful environment that it allowed me to form some of the closest friendships I’ve ever had. It drew us together; we organically became family, and supported each other’s dreams, goals, and aspirations in a way I’d never experienced before, and rarely since.”

Jones spent much of his time at SC4 in the Fine Arts Building, participating in The SC4 Players and the student drama club, WSGR radio, and the music club. He also spent many hours in the piano practice rooms, both playing music and using them for studying.

“I think I was labeled as ‘general studies,’ or something like that,” Jones laughed. “But I primarily loaded my schedule with English, theater, and (SC4 Professor) Scott Fernandez.”

He has fond memories for many of the instructors and staff members in the FAB, whether he had them as a teacher or not.

“Stewart Reed, David Korff, Holly Pennington, Lisa Sturtridge, Karen Jezewski, Al Matthews, Paul Miller, Gary Schmitz, Ethan Flick.” Jones paused as he listed some of those who influenced him as a student. “And Alfred Gay, who happened to be an elder at my church growing up. They all passionately fought for and supported the growth of everyone who stepped foot inside that building and their classrooms.”

One instructor was particularly important to Jones, though: Tom Kephart, who taught acting, improvisation, and oral interpretation courses and was the artistic director for The SC4 Players during Jones’ time at SC4.

“He was single-handedly the most important instructor I had across all of my collegiate studies,” Jones explained. “He graciously led by example, taking interpretive risks, showing genuine vulnerability, and giving unwavering support for his students as he challenged us to do the same. He instilled more confidence, empathy, and appreciation for the human experience in his students than any other class I took elsewhere.”

Jones graduated from SC4 in 2012 and was the commencement speaker that year. He transferred to Oakland University, where he finished his Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2014, then moved on to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, where he received his Master of Divinity degree in 2019.

“When I was placed in Flint after graduating from Concordia Seminary, my wife Krysti and I decided that if we wanted to make an impact here, we were going to stay for the long haul,” Jones said. “Some pastors talk about becoming mega-preacher millionaires, which is foolishness and is not Christianity. As a pastor, I cherish the times when families invite me into their realities to weep, to pray, and to sing songs with them. There is no greater privilege I’ve ever had than to simply be called someone’s pastor.”

Jones has even bigger plans for the Franklin Avenue Mission, including an early childhood education center, a low-income laundromat, and eventually expansion into Flint’s north side. They’re ambitious and service-centered goals, that all began when he graduated from St. Clair High School and walked onto the SC4 campus in Port Huron.

“I wouldn’t be who I am today if dedicated teachers hadn’t put forth their very best personal efforts to see their students grow into game-changers in their communities,” Jones said.

For more information about the Franklin Avenue Mission, visit their website at franklinavemission.com.