Words and photos by Aron Turner, Voice Staff Writer
There are 1,626 wonderful stories when Washtenaw Community College bestows degrees and certificates to its graduates on May 17. Here are a few of them:
Michael Dumiter: A life-changing moment
Some students experienced life-changing events while attending Washtenaw Community College. Among those is 21-year-old Michael Dumiter, a resident of Saline.
Dumiter changed his program numerous times while attending WCC, where he started in an engineering program.
“I didn’t know what to expect at first,” he said. “I really ended up enjoying the freedom college offered as opposed to high school.”
His signature moment came when he joined Chi-Alpha, a Christian group on campus.
“It allowed me to see change within this community college,” he said. “To go along with the changes, you begin to see within yourself. To share so many experiences with so many different people is something I’ll never forget.”
This led him to changing his program of study to occupational therapy. The change was much-welcomed, Dumiter said, and has really boosted his confidence level to new heights.
“Graduating is a relief, yet frightening,” he said. “But overall, I feel way more confident now than when I first started.”
Dumiter credits this to joining Chi-Alpha, which allowed him to become a part of a tightly knit community that pushed him to excel in school and in life.
He plans to continue his program at Wayne State University in hopes of receiving his bachelor’s in occupational therapy. One day, he hopes, Dumiter will work with those who need him most at Mott Children’s Hospital.
“I just want to help people out,” he said. “That’s my main goal.”
Jack Altman: And the price was right, too
Some students attending Washtenaw Community College are following in the footsteps of someone they look up to.
So it is for 18-year-old Jack Altman. A resident of Ypsilanti by way of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Altman credits his father for his interest in the engineering program.
“My dad always told me to use my mind and not my body,” Altman said, noting that he had prior experience in college while in high school to help him with the transition.
And the cost of a good pre-engineering curriculum at Washtenaw was an added benefit.
“I really liked it,” Altman said. “I was able to save so much money by attending here compared to if I started at a large university.”
While enrolled in a similar program WCC offers to high school students, Altman experienced college life firsthand while a senior in high school in his hometown of Milwaukee.
“I had the chance to go to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee,” Altman said. “It was absolutely huge. It made WCC look like a high school.”
Altman had struggles with English courses in that past, but English instructor Julie Kissel made it easier for him
“I used to hate taking English courses. I didn’t enjoy it at all” Altman said. “But Julie made it fun for me, and I ended up really enjoying it.”
Altman will transfer to the University of Michigan to pursue his bachelor’s in engineering. He has dreams of working at an engineering firm one day.
And, if he has it his way, Altman will return to give back to his community by working for Rockwell Automation in Milwaukee.
Danny Shindorf: How one instructor made the difference
For some students, the road to success is very difficult at first, but they eventually receive that push they need to succeed. Danny Shindorf, 33, of Ypsilanti, is a living testament of this.
His initial experience in the welding program at Washtenaw Community College was a rough one.
“I ran into a lot of instructors that didn’t help me out at all,” Shindorf said. He admitted he was nearly ready to give up when he met the instructor who would motivate and push him to complete the welding program. That person was Welding and Fabrication instructor Coley McLean.
“I failed my placement test at first,” Shindorf said. “She took me under her wing and anything you ever needed, she was more than happy to help you.”
This gave him that extra push he needed to not give up on the program and continue. Shindorf has now completed the program and is anxiously awaiting graduation.
“It’s a great feeling to graduate, yet scary at the same time,” he said.
Shindorf hopes to work in the field of X-ray welding after graduating. He has aspirations to get into the field of art as well.
“I want to go into sculpting,” Shindorf said. “I want to be able to make my own stuff.” In retrospect, Shindorf shares a usual piece of advice with future college students.
“Find that one teacher that’s going to push you,” he said, “and change your life for the better.”
Angel Izaguirre: From one ‘homeland’ to another
Students at Washtenaw Community College come from all different lifestyles and walks of life. Many of them are international students. Among them is 19-year-old Angel Izaguirre. Izaguirre is a resident of Ann Arbor and originally from Venezuela.
He is a psychology student who has enjoyed his experience here at WCC.
“It has really been a fun experience for me,” Izaguirre said, noting that as an international student, the learning in a secondary language can be a difficult challenge.
“My instructors really helped me on with my English,” Izaguirre said. “It made everything a lot easier for me.”
While times were filled with good memories that Izaguirre shared with friends in the Student Center Community Room, he knows it’s time to get to work.
“I was so happy with the time I spent here at Washtenaw,” Izaguirre said. “But I know now, it’s time for me to get serious.”
By “serious” he means what lies ahead in the future: studying at the University of Michigan to earn his bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology.
After that, Izaguirre plans to continue his studies with the goal of receiving his master’s degree in criminal psychology. In the end, he hopes it will carry him to a career in Homeland Security.
Emily Rose: The long road to success
For some students, a long commute can be challenging enough to fall short of accomplishing their goals. But for 21-year-old Emily Rose, traveling was only a small sacrifice that had to be made to complete her program.
A resident of Toledo, Ohio, Rose will be graduating from Washtenaw Community College with her degree in photography. And, while she is excited about moving on, she admits to getting a little down when she realizes her time here is about to come to an end.
“It’s really sad for me to leave,” she said. “This program was a tight-knit group. When you’re with the same people for two years, you become really close.”
Her instructors played a big role in her accomplishment, she said, because they were there for her every step of the way.
“They were really a big help,” she said.
The reality of graduating has yet to hit her as she was preparing her work for the big art show on April 30. But she is sure that once that time comes, she will be able to reflect on just how great her time here was.
“I just love it here,” said Rose, who is a published writer and photographer in The Voice this year, too. “The biggest thing I’m going to miss is working in the photo lab.”
She plans to continue her studies at Siena Heights in Adrian to get her bachelor’s degree in fine arts. Her dream is to one day own her very own photography portrait business.
“I’m not going to miss the drive from here to Toledo,” she said. “I can’t wait until I can start saving gas money again.”
Carissa Sturdivant: Knowledge for a lifetime
Carissa Sturdivant, 19, from Ypsilanti, is excited to finally be at the finish line here at Washtenaw Community College.
On the verge of completing her nursing degree, she felt as though WCC gave her an abundance of valuable lessons that prepared her for a career – and for life.
“It’s a good school,” Carissa said, recalling her times as a student. “I learned a lot.”
She praised the many resources WCC makes available for students, such as tutors and financial aid. And she made good use of them.
“There were a lot of resources that helped me when times were hard,” she said. “Graduating here is very motivating to me because it makes me want to achieve more.”
Sturdivant hopes to continue her studies in the nursing program at a major university, adding that UCLA is at the top of her wish list.