Benefits of a Liberal Arts Education
A liberal arts education can pay dividends even before graduation. Just ask MCC student David Langlois, the $1,000 top prize winner in November’s BOOST! Elevator Pitch Competition.
The Spring Lake High graduate came to MCC as a vocalist eyeing a music education profession. One semester shy of earning his degree, David became intrigued with computers during an intro class with Instructor Jim Landes. “He teaches motivationally and that got me pumped,” said David, who shifted academic gears and will soon graduate with associate’s degrees in both Computer Information Systems and Information Technologies.
David credits the MCC business faculty with providing life-changing opportunities. “The instructors have always been caring and willing to go the extra mile,” he said. “Whenever I put it out there that I wanted to go further, they gave me the opportunity.”
He has rubbed shoulders with IBM user experts at national conferences through instructor Char Parker’s encouragement. Greg Miller’s networking classes have equipped him with practical hard theories, which he uses to train MCC faculty as an IT Department student technician. Another instructor, John J. Johnson, has involved David with writing a program to update MCC Nursing Department’s electronic record keeping.
When instructor David Stradal convinced him to enter a student entrepreneurial competition, David nearly withdrew the night before. He needed an outline for his two-minute pitch and found it at the 11th hour while doing his English assignment.
“I was reading Othello and just the way that Shakespeare structures his ideas helped me restructure my ideas,” said David, who confidently and successfully presented his Tech Hawk business concept the following evening.
David, who plans to continue his education and pursue advanced degrees at Ferris State University, offers a nugget of advice to present and future MCC students. “Take the broadest expanse of experiences that you can because there’s so much to offer here. If you just narrow your focus, you’re going to miss out on a lot of great people and great ways of thinking.”
Thinking Outside the Box
"My winning concept at last year's Young Entrepreneur competition brought me to MCC," said first-year student Torey Melton. "Now, my college entrepreneurship program classes and participating in events like the Boost! Elevator Pitch competition in November are preparing me to successfully start my own business."
For more information or to register for the 2012 Boost! Elevator Pitch Competition, visit www.mmic.us or www.e-mergewestmichigan.org. To learn about Muskegon Community College's Entreprenuerial Studies Program, click here.
Strength to Face Challenges
“All my challenges in life have taught me about the struggles that other people have and how I might be able to help them,” says MCC alumna Christina Perez, a registered nurse with Community Mental Health in Muskegon. She uses her personal experiences to advocate for the developmentally disabled and those challenged with mental illness in our community.
“I had struggled with obesity in my mid-30s and that hampered some of my confidence,” says Christina, who gained a new-found assurance while losing the weight. As the mother of a special needs daughter, Christina acquired a firsthand empathy and appreciation for those in need.
Christina has thrown her energies into several local committees that seek to remove the stigma surrounding persons with developmental disabilities. A second-generation Mexican American, she’s also involved with Latinos for the Future. “I’ve always been in touch with my culture being Hispanic. Ultimately, we want to get to the point where we’re out of the idea of cultural awareness and we make a culturally diverse community the norm.”
She came to the nursing profession later in life and praises her training at MCC’s nationally accredited nursing program. “The instructors are excellent. They give you a realistic, university feel in a small town college setting. The material was comprehensive and I always had the academic support whenever I needed it.”
Adding patient care, psychiatric and crisis experiences while working in local hospitals and health care facilities, Christina now motivates her Community Mental Health outpatients to become recovery oriented. “They can realize their full potential if they put their hearts into it.”
It’s the same message she has for those facing difficulties of any kind in their lives. “They should realize they are not the only ones doing so. They are not alone. Anytime they need help, they should ask for it. That’s what family, friends, and other people are there for, to support them.”
Racing to the Future
“Electric vehicle development is going to blow wide open in the next five years,” says MCC automotive tech instructor Allen Thomas, who’s helping MCC students get on the ground floor. He teaches them about alternatives fuels and helps them construct world record-setting electric vehicles.
As the recently appointed Midwest Regional Director for National Electric Drag Racing Association, Thomas says his new position will give MCC an even better connection to alternative energy battery manufacturing industry.
“We’re cutting-edge as far as educational opportunities,” he notes. “Some of our students are going to take this technology and build and develop electric vehicles.”
Thomas knows their passion. He has been enthralled with automobiles since he was 14 years old and worked two years on his first car, a sleek 1965 Mustang, alongside his father. Now, he instructs his own MCC students as they work on the college’s electric-powered dragster “Short Circuit,” the owner of two world speed marks. This semester, his students are gathering preliminary plans for an alternative-fueled MCC car that can be road-licensed and driven in parades.
MCC students still learn the intricacies of internal combustion automobiles to secure immediate jobs, but Thomas sees a change on the horizon. “Some very big breakthroughs are around the corner,” he says. He points to electric airplanes and electric dragsters topping 200 mph and a technology catching up to and in some cases surpassing the old engines.
Thomas loves the learning process as much as the subject matter. Whether teaching the technology or today or tomorrow, he gets his greatest satisfaction as an instructor watching his students succeed. “It’s the excitement they have when they get what they’re learning and they know they’ve made a difference. It’s a rewarding experience.”
New Careers in Time-Honored Technology
When the recession claimed the jobs of Ken Visger and Monica Deboef, they became first-time college students as adults and, soon after, graduates coveted by West Michigan firms seeking their RPG computer skills learned while at MCC.
RPG, or Report Program Generator, has been around for decades, said MCC Instructor Char Parker, who never stopped teaching the less trendy but stalwart Computer Information Systems (CIS) curriculum at MCC. She envisioned its resurgence as Baby Boomer computer programmers using RPG in small- to mid-sized businesses statewide would soon begin retiring. She was right. Now, employers besiege Char for her MCC graduates with RPG know-how.
“Students have this perception that RPG is old and stodgy and not going anywhere, when in fact it’s a much more modern interface and a technology used by the majority of the Fortune 500 companies,” explained Char. Successful RPG practitioners, she noted, “have to be very detail oriented, good critical and logical thinkers, and must have perseverance."
Ken’s first love was always computers. As a teen in the 1980s, he tinkered with Radio Shack’s then-popular TRS-80s and took a programming class at Shelby High. But military service and working to support his family kept Ken from enrolling in college. When he was laid off as a body shop manager, Ken pursued his lifelong passion as a student in MCC’s Computer Information Systems (CIS) program. He bought into Char’s arguments that RPG increased his marketability.
Blackmer, a pump manufacturer in Wyoming, Mich., hired Ken as an information technology programmer right out of MCC.
“This is the first time ever in my life that I feel like I have a career and not a job,” concluded Ken.
When Monica’s job of overseeing database and network operations at Pliant Plastics in Spring Lake was eliminated, she used the No Worker Left Behind incentive to attend MCC. Monica admittedly needed the college degree to advance, so she engrossed herself into obtaining degrees in both computer networking and programming.
Armed with her RPG skill set, Monica was invited to attend a professional conference in Wisconsin with Char and other MCC students. The networking opportunity provided valuable contacts which helped Monica secure a position with Arbor Solutions, a computer consulting firm in Grand Rapids.
Discovering Her Potential
Attending a community college wasn’t even on Chloe Andrews’ radar screen as a high school honor student. But a last-minute switch in her family’s plans to relocate left the University of Colorado-bound student scurrying for “a back-up” college. Looking back, Chloe’s choice of Muskegon Community College “changed her life for the better.”
“My eyes were opened to a whole new world,” Chloe told her 2012 classmates at the April Commencement. “I’ve met amazing people, inspiring teachers, and I have been able to open many doors for myself. One of the most important aspects of this school, in my eyes, is the teachers and instructors who give you every opportunity to succeed.”
Her English 101 instructor, Cathy Rusco, knew Chloe possessed great potential and did everything in her power to make sure Chloe succeeded. In Kurt Troutman’s Political Science 111 class, Chloe said, “I was able to find out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I never realized taking a class would make my mind up forever. I thought it was just a class that was required for my degree, not realizing that I would love every second of every class.”
Chloe discovered inspiration at every turn of her MCC journey. The trip with classmates to the hallowed Gettysburg battlefield brought her history lessons to life. The Reeths-Puffer High School alumna coached her alma mater’s freshman girls’ basketball team. “Those girls taught me more than what I taught them,” she admitted. “If I had gone off to a university when I first started out, that opportunity would have never been given to me”
“MCC has given me a reason to continue my learning and I will never stop challenging myself,” concluded Chloe, who will major in political science at Grand Valley State University.
One of the Best
Muskegon’s Anthony J. Kolenic Jr. ranks among the nation’s finest attorneys. For each of the past 16 years, he’s been listed among the Best Lawyers in America in his field of Employee Benefits Law. The 2012 MCC Distinguished Alumni Award winner has repeatedly been honored as a Michigan Super Lawyer. When he’s not applying his extensive legal knowledge of employee benefits, executive compensation and retirement plans, Kolenic advocates for education.
The 1973 MCC graduate earned a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School.
"As someone who grew up in relatively modest circumstances, I'm grateful that I was able to get an excellent start on college right here in Muskegon,” said Kolenic. “My years at MCC gave me a great foundation to go on to Michigan State and the University of Michigan Law School at a time when I could not have afforded to go away to school. Education is clearly the pathway to a better life."
He presided over the Muskegon County Catholic Education Foundation and the Muskegon County Museum. Throughout his professional career, Kolenic has shared what he has learned. He has taught at MCC and Western Michigan University and, today, continues as an adjunct instructor at Grand Valley State University.
"I've been lucky to see education from the other side of the desk as well,” concluded Kolenic. “I've been constantly impressed by how students are clearly hungry to learn and improve themselves and their economic circumstances. You can see that they understand the importance of learning as much from you as they can, so it is a huge responsibility to make their time with you as valuable as possible. And, I love seeing my students years later when they're using some of what I’ve taught in their careers."
A Grandparent's Pride
His Finnish-born grandfather taught Scott Hichue to bowl when he was five. Aaron Sherman’s late grandmother envisioned bowling greatness for him. In March, the two Jayhawk teammates became National Junior College All-Americans.
Hichue and Sherman finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in the national tournament held in Buffalo. A day earlier, Sherman became MCC’s first bowling national champion in the individual competition. The MCC criminal justice student loves pressure. In the big tournaments, he has a routine for handling it.
“I think about my grandma, Trini Wright,” said Aaron. “It calms me down. She passed away six months after I graduated from high school. One of the last things she said to me was that she hoped I would do great things in bowling. When I won the national championship, the first person I thought of was my grandma.”
The Ravenna native’s parents, Dave and Penny, were with him in Buffalo. His Dad, an avid bowler, drove one of the MCC team vans during the season.
Meanwhile, Scott’s grandfather’s, Erik Bostrom, still proudly wears the jacket Scott won and gave him for rolling his first 300 game seven years ago.
“My grandpa is 89 years old and my grandma is 86 years old and they still bowl two times a week,” added Scott, a first generation American whose parents are bowling enthusiasts as well.
A non-traditional student, Scott is pursuing accounting at MCC. Both he and Aaron are tentatively planning to test the waters of the Professional Bowling Association regional circuit this year. It’s the next step in bowling careers that are truly family affairs.
A Sense of Duty
MCC sophomore Hope Buell, a 2012 All-Michigan Academic Team Award recipient, possesses a list of achievements both academic and philanthropic.
The former Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) president embraces community service, a cornerstone of the honorary society. In February, Hope assisted in removing invasive plant life at both Muskegon State Park and Hoffmaster State Park. She helps PTK with its clean-up of the Lake Michigan shoreline and Business 31 in downtown Muskegon.
In 2011, Hope assisted in raising funds to create 15 college scholarships for Iowa and Missouri residents left homeless in the wake of widespread tornadoes that devastated the Midwest.
“With their financial base destroyed, many of the victims’ families could no longer afford to send their children to college,” explained Hope, a U.S. Navy veteran.
Working with MCC instructors Greg Marczak and Debra Howell, Hope helped with the building plan layout of Silver Creek Energy Lab, where MCC students will harness renewable energy resources and create an experienced labor force in the region.
The same sense of duty and philanthropy that allowed Hope to succeed at MCC will create new opportunities for her at Ferris State University, where she has been accepted into the competitive School of Pharmacy.
Influencing by Design
Sophomore Laura Shaler mixed gold, salmon, teal and purple colors throughout the graphic image she created and entered into the first-ever “DREAM Big for College” t-shirt contest. The non-profit Achieving the Dream (AtD) organization, with 150 community college members in 30 states committed to student achievement and success, sponsored the competition. The group wanted a logo that spoke to its mission for use at its national annual meeting in Dallas in March.
“It seemed like a lot of students were designing shirts with graduation caps, gowns and diplomas,” explained Laura, a Grand Haven, Mich., native who finalized her concept over a three-week span in her MCC class. “I just wanted a design that would appeal to everyone.”
Her imaginative work caught the judges’ eyes. Laura was chosen as a national co-winner. She will receive a guaranteed $1,000 in cash – and possibly more – from sales of her design on limited edition t-shirts at the AtD convention. For each online t-shirt sale to the general public by You and Who, the Buffalo, N.Y.-based company will donate a meal to a Muskegon food bank. The company’s website also profiles Laura, who will major in graphic design at Ferris State after graduating from MCC in April.
AtD created the contest to offer talented community college students a national platform. As Laura steps into the limelight, she brings a confidence developed on campus.
“When I first came to MCC and found out there was a graphics program, I had no idea it was going to be as advanced as it is,” concluded Laura. “It’s unbelievable how much I have learned from working here and taking classes here.”
An Answer to a Prayer
Story ideas fill Miguel Vasquez’s head. It’s always been that way. He has quietly kept them inside for nearly a century. He never found someone willing to help him write his thoughts, that is, until he arrived at MCC’s College Success Center.
Born in Mexico’s coastal Oaxaca region 93 years ago, Miguel left his motherless home as a youngster. He came to the U.S. when he was 22. He served around the world with the U.S. Army, Air Force and Navy, but his poor English writing skills stymied any chances for promotion. So he worked in a foundry and then became a painter at Brunswick for 27 years until he retired. Never finishing school himself, Miguel and his talented wife emphasized education to their three children, now an attorney, an engineer and a teacher.
Miguel came to MCC two years ago to learn sign language. He discovered instructors Lynda Ferry and David Keith, who rekindled his passion to write. “Before, whenever I asked people if they could help me because I can’t write English, they never have the time. David was an answer to my prayer.” Miguel dictated to David his children’s story about Candilin, the mischievous rabbit. They began a second story about Hernando Cortez.
“You can learn no matter how old you are,” said Miguel, who has accumulated the wisdom of a full life. Because of his MCC experience, he’s now sharing it with the world.
Achieving Her Dream
Recent MCC alumna Mayra Sanchez takes pride in being the first member of her family to attend college.
“MCC provided me with an accessible and affordable opportunity to start my career,” said Mayra. “I really did not know much about college, so starting here seemed less intimidating.”
Mayra credits her involvement in the Phi Theta Kappa honors society and the support of its advisor, Kelley Conrad, with giving her the courage to pursue her dream of becoming a psychologist.
“Once I transferred to MCC, it really made a difference in my aspirations and opened up many opportunities for me,” she explained. “Being part of Phi Theta Kappa changed my life because it really helped me to realize that I am capable of doing whatever it is I want to do.”
“Kelley is definitely someone who offered me valuable lessons, especially in terms of always trying things, even if the outcome was uncertain.”
Graduating in 2010, Mayra continued her psychology studies at Grand Valley State University. She will earn her degree this spring and plans to eventually obtain a Ph.D in either clinical psychology or neuropsychology.
Mayra’s advice for new students: “Never stop doing something because you are afraid you can’t do it or don’t have any chance of getting it, you must first give it a try.”
The Great Outdoors
1994 MCC graduate Steven Rinella, a well-known author, travel writer and outdoor television host, credits MCC instructors for teaching him to explore his writing passion. “I was always interested in writing about the outdoors,” said Steven. “I just didn’t know how to go about it.”
Steven grew up in Twin Lake, Michigan, graduated from Reeths-Puffer schools, and went on to Muskegon Community College, where through the advice of his English 101 instructor, began to write about his passion and what he knew well – which was hunting, fishing, and the great outdoors.
“I had many inspiring instructors at MCC, but my English instructor Nelvin Jager really encouraged me and reinforced my writing skills,” said Steven. “I was struggling with my writing until he told me to write about what I knew. My first writing success was about how to trap a fox.”
After college, Steven moved west to Montana to focus on his chosen career as an outdoor and adventure-travel writer. He has written numerous stories for many of the nation's top publications, including the New York Times, Outside, Men's Journal, O the Oprah Magazine, Glamour, the New Yorker, Field and Stream, Petersen’s Hunting, and American Hunter. What’s next on his agenda? A new TV show on the Sportman’s Channel starting January 2012 called Meat Eater.
Worth the Wait
Nielsen Scholarship recipient Jamie Paiva took a few years to find her true calling and even longer to discover MCC was the best place for achieving it. But the future nurse admits the wait has been worthwhile.
“The teachers and the experience I have had in this program reaffirm my reasons for choosing MCC,” says Jamie. “The teachers really do care about their students, care about our grades and try to help us succeed. If I have questions, I don’t feel like I am a bother to them. At other colleges, I did not have those experiences at all.”
The Muskegon native began her collegiate studies in New Orleans, but Hurricane Katrina altered her plans. An exceptional academic student, Jamie returned to Michigan to pursue a degree in the medical profession, eventually gravitating to nursing.
“I wanted a career that would be diverse,” explains Jamie, who longed for a change after a decade in communications and technology sales. “For me, doing the same thing for 10 years of your life gets really old. With nursing, if I get bored or restless in one area, I can easily go into another. I love people. I love sciences. I am fascinated by the human body and how you can alter things to heal someone.”
Looking for a better collegiate experience, Jamie transferred to MCC. While waiting to get into the competitive program, she completed her pre-requisite courses. Today, she’s nearly halfway through her nursing regimen, active in the Student Nurse Club and completing her first clinical foray, in obstetrics, at the Hackley campus.
“I am most impressed with the effort she puts into her assignments and the professionalism she exhibits, even as a student nurse,” remarks Chris Patterson, MCC’s clinical coordinator. “Jamie provides an excellent example of the strength of Muskegon Community College and its Nursing Department.”
Going the Extra Mile
MCC student Lance Marczak can attest that some of the best learning experiences occur outside of the classroom.
“We can only learn so much from the essays and lectures,” explained the Nielsen Scholarship recipient. “We have to go outside the classroom and use what we’ve learned in the real world for it to stick. MCC has a lot of opportunities that people ought to take part in.”
The sophomore ranks his trip to the Gettsyburg battlefield, serving as a representative to the Model UN in Chicago, and participating in the exchange program in Germany as his top MCC extracurricular involvements.
“You gain valuable experience, meet new people, and before you know it you’re having a lot of fun, too,” added Lance, who plans to major in kinesiology.
Lance didn’t need to look far for his educational role models. His grandfather, Frank, is a former MCC president and his father, Greg, teaches chemistry.
Someday Lance would welcome the opportunity to follow in their footsteps as an instructor at MCC, a place where he could inspire the next generation of students to go the extra mile.
The Unwritten Word
Kim Page’s graphic design speaks directly to adults who cannot read. They told her so when choosing her visual concept for the current Read Muskegon poster and billboard campaign against illiteracy in the community.
“I tried to put myself in their shoes,” said Kim, an avid reader who attends MCC on the Trade Reenactment Act after her 16-year assembly and purchasing job was eliminated by a local furniture maker. “I cannot imagine not being able to read. It opens so many doors for you."
Last year, Read Muskegon approached MCC instructor Nancy Slater and her Digital Imagining students to craft a poster encouraging non-readers to become literate.
When judging the results, the Read Muskegon Board of Directors favored several other MCC student designs, but its clientele - the ad’s target audience - selected Kim’s as the clear winner.
“Yours was the one they chose because they said it felt exactly how they felt, that there was a piece missing because they couldn’t read,” recalled Kim about being informed she won a $50 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble. “They said the puzzle spoke to them.”
“Every semester I am amazed at the amount of talent that walks into my classroom,” admitted Slater, noting that Kim and other displaced workers with years of practical, real-world experience often have an advantage.
MCC's Gentle Giant
He was MCC’s “gentle giant.” A 6-5, 400-pound heavyweight wrestler, the late Chris Taylor won national championships here and at Iowa State before earning an Olympic bronze medal at the 1972 Munich Games. This June, Taylor will be inducted posthumously as a distinguished member into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum.
“He was very competitive and put Muskegon Community College on the map as far as wrestling was concerned,” said longtime MCC wrestling Coach Ron Gaffner, who knew Taylor as a scholastic grappler and followed him at MCC. “He was one of the most exceptional wrestlers we’ve had at the international level. He won the bronze medal in Munich, losing only to (Soviet Union’s) Aleksandr Nedved. I watched it and thought he got robbed on that one.”
The USSR’s Nedved, who went on to win the gold medal, beat Taylor 3-2 on a controversial stalling call.
A two-time state champ at Dowagiac (Mich.) High School, Taylor was 41-0 in dual meets at MCC. He captured the national title in his freshman year and took third as a sophomore. He helped lead the Jayhawks to the 1970 NJCAA national championship. At NCAA Division I powerhouse Iowa State University, Taylor posted an 87-0-1 record and won two national crowns. He pinned 42 of 48 opponents as a senior.
“I think he might have been the greatest athlete for his size who ever lived," said his former Cyclone Coach Harold Nichols.
Taylor died at age 29 in 1979. He is a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association Wrestling Hall of Fame and The Des Moines Sunday Register Iowa Sports Hall of Fame. The National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum induction ceremonies will take place on June 1-2 at the facility located in Stillwater, Okla.
Truck driver Eddie Smith turned to Muskegon Community College in Fall 2011 when he needed a boost to his truck-driving career. Thanks to MCC's Professional Truck Driver Training, Eddie now holds a Class A Commercial Driver’s License and will soon start his new job as a UPS driver.
“The training I received was very instrumental in me landing a good paying job,” Eddie says. "The instructors were great, and because the class was so small, I was able to ask a lot of questions and not take up a lot of time.”
Eddie said he recommends Muskegon Community College’s CDL program to anyone interested in a truck-driving career. "The program is a great start toward a new career in driving. It will open more doors and you will have more opportunities for more jobs.”
Breaking Down Barriers
Bethany Houghton, donned in dark glasses to protect her dilated pupils after a doctor’s visit, was troubled by the demeaning behavior she received from a restaurant waitress. She used the experience as the basis for her MCC anthropology class project. Bethany replicated her appearance at three more service-related businesses. In each case, she encountered the same cold and fearful reaction.
The Muskegon native wants to break down such barriers of ignorance through a campaign of awareness, but she’s not waiting until she graduates. Visually impaired from birth, Bethany posted a YouTube video in August highlighting the merits of MCC’s Special Services Office and its receptive staff. She has made Web pages compliant for those with disabilities. The MCC sophomore, who tutors students taking French, is participating with Rotaract and Phi Theta Kappa honorary society this year.
Bethany plans on attending Eastern Michigan after earning her associate’s degree in May. She hopes to work with young children as an orientation and mobility specialist. “I want them to be able to know that they can accomplish things,” she said. We doubt that they will find a better role model.
MCC Helped Fulfill a Dream
Mustapha Kambi temporarily left family and friends in his native Gambia to gain knowledge in America, but not just for himself. He sought an education that could be used to improve the lives of those in his impoverished West African community. His cross-Atlantic journey eventually led him to Muskegon Community College and its Nursing Program, a personal gateway to opportunity after he endured rejections from other institutions of higher learning.
“Persistent, persistent, persistent, he just does not give up,” said Pam Brown, MCC’s nursing director, in describing Mustapha and his determination to fulfill his dream. “He went to school, worked and slept.”
Mustapha earned money as a patient care technician at Mercy Health Partners, attended professional conferences and diligently completed his nursing clinical requirements. The honor student and Phi Theta Kappa member earned two associate’s degrees from MCC, graduating in August 2011.
Mustapha passed his NCLEX-RN on his first attempt, and now participates in the GVSU/MCC/GRCC Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Advance Grant Program at Grand Valley State University’s Kirkhof College of Nursing.
“He wants to be a certified nurse practitioner, so he will have to earn his clinical master’s degree before returning home,” explained Brown.
Mustapha’s homecoming will reinforce the time-honored fact that MCC graduates better the world in which we live, even as far away as a village in Africa.
Involvement is Rewarded
Tammie Anderson hasn’t had an easy life. Given away for adoption as a youngster, she shuffled between Florida and Michigan living with different families. She endured many struggles in her personal life, including the tragic death of her twin children.
She tried college once but dropped out. Then, at age 38, with the encouragement of her husband and the No Worker Left Behind program, she enrolled at MCC. She discovered its life-changing counselors and Phi Theta Kappa. The self-proclaimed quitter began living the honor society’s tenets. She volunteered in the community, led by example - especially to her children - and became a productive team member.
“I realized everything I was doing was having an impact and making me stronger,” said Tammie, who received a $1,000 Athena Scholarship to complete her studies at MCC.
She interned 30 hours a week in the Crockery Township office in Nunica, where she continues to work after earning two associate’s degrees – in business and information services in December 2011.
Catch a Future at MCC
This summer when rocket fish sculptures dotted the Grand Haven landscape, there was something decidedly familiar to anyone from MCC about the blue and gold one, diploma in its mouth, located on Washington Avenue. The artist, MCC graduate Mary Jo Westerberg, painted it in the Jayhawks school colors and dubbed it “Catch a Future.” The artwork was moved to the MCC campus this fall.
Mary Jo, now studying for her BFA at Kendall School of Art student, wanted her final product to be cheerful and uplifting, reminiscent of her experience at MCC. Twenty years separated her first degree there and her return for a second. Mary Jo put her aspirations on hold while home schooling her two sons. Both came to MCC. Mary Jo followed suit after being encouraged by her former MCC teacher.
She inundated herself in computer and graphic arts, photography, drawing and painting courses. Her instructors helped her at every turn, with a Muskegon Museum of Art internship, professional portfolio preparations and a solid academic foundation.
“They welcomed non-traditional students and were very encouraging,” said Mary Jo, who’s not sure what specific area she will pursue as a professional artist. “It’s a brand new world that I am trying to figure out. It’s part of a mystery. MCC made it possible.”
MCC Opens Window to World
Allen Putnam’s friendship with an exchange student in high school piqued his interest in Germany, but Kathy Tosa’s German classes at MCC opened his eyes and ears to the nation’s people and culture. He spent one Christmas in Germany before beginning his language classes. “I never felt more alone sitting in a room full of people,” he recalled. “Even the background conversations were in a different language.”
The energetic Tosa changed all that. “She gets so emotional about teaching German,” he said. “You can tell she has a passion for it.” Now, so does Putnam. He engaged his German hosts in discussions and debates in subsequent visits. “The Germans love U.S. politics,” he explained. “They feel that every American that goes over there is personally responsible for our political mistakes. I just love having conversations with them about conflicting ideas.”
A member of Montague High School’s state champion football team, Allen has coached the school’s jayvees while attending MCC. He tutors German and astronomy at MCC and plans to attend Michigan State , where he will study abroad at the University of Freiburg. Allen’s long-term goal is to become a special education teacher, but he’s already taken some giant steps toward demonstrating his lessons on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
MCC Spurs All-American Effort
MCC softball Coach Matt Housman quickly recalls Ashley White’s perpetual smile, her gregarious personality and how she thoroughly enjoyed being on the pitcher’s mound during the 2010 season. But opposing teams may have an entirely different recollection of the talented Jayhawks right-handed thrower.
Ashley, who developed a full complement of pitches the summer before, befuddled their hitters and posted statistics which earned her First Team All-American honors. Her 36-6 win-loss record and 367 strikeouts were best in the nation, while her amazing 1.03 earned run average led the MCC women to a national championship.
Her best work, though, may have occurred off the field. “She’s got a great heart,” said Housman, who joined Ashley and other members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes help the folks of Parkersburg, Iowa rebuild their tornado-ravaged community in 2009.
After earning her MCC degree, Ashley, who was raised by her grandparents in Lansing, Mich., turned down Division I scholarships in Ohio and Indiana. She chose and now attends nearby Aquinas College so that they could watch her compete. The same concern for others will serve Ashley well in her chosen career as a social worker.
MCC Leads to University Success
Growing up in Ravenna, Julie Smith McGhan loved her family pets, maintaining a special fondness for horses since getting one when she was 11 years old. As her equine interest grew, she “shadowed” local horse trainers and helped in a veterinary office. There, she discovered her passion for working with animals each day and getting to know them and their owners.
A three-sport athlete, band member and honor student at Ravenna, Julie brought her active lifestyle – along with 30 dual-enrollment college credits – to MCC, which she envisioned as the perfect stepping stone to a larger university.
“The faculty and staff at MCC do a great job of helping you reach your goals,” said Julie, a charter inductee and officer of Phi Theta Kappa. The MCC honor society offered her opportunities to attend conventions, be a student rep on college committees and for networking to obtain scholarships. “It also helped me to grow out of my comfort zone.”
After earning her associate’s degree, Julie graduated with honors from Grand Valley State University and now attends MSU’s School of Veterinary Science. She hopes to someday open a small clinic in Ravenna and help the animals in the place she calls home.
MCC Students and Faculty Share Global Views
Papa N’Jai offers his MCC students a personal global perspective on geography and culture. The Sierra Leone native combines the vivid experiences of his African youth with the knowledge he gained in American universities and working in the non-profit sector. His popular Cultural Diversity course makes practical and important connections between the day-to-day happenings in West Michigan and the ever-shrinking world in which MCC students must live and work.
“As much as I impart knowledge to the students, they give me back double with fresh eyes and perspectives that keep me sharp and excited to learn,” says the MCC Social Sciences Department chair.
Do you have someone you would like to nominate as an MCC Shining Star? We would like to share their inspiring story with the world. Simply complete our Success Story Form, or email Tina Dee in the Office of Community Relations at MCC.