For over a quarter of a century – C.J. Snow worked steadily to climb the corporate ladder and held a variety of positions in the publishing and music industries. His last professional position was as a music buyer with the corporate office of Borders – an international book and music retailer. Then, one day in 2011, Snow found himself, like thousands of other professionals across the country, on the other end of a layoff notice.
Even though he knew the layoff was coming, it required him to reassess every aspect of his life – what would he do next? What was important to him as he contemplated the next season of his life. With the support of his former Borders colleagues, friends and most importantly, his wife Rosalynn, Snow started over with a knock on the door of WCC. And it was here, that his life ventured into pursing a passion he always had in the back of his mind to become a teacher.
Snow found his calling at WCC and will stand before his peers and WCC faculty, administrators and staff and deliver the 2014 commencement address. “It was at WCC that I realized how capable I was of being a good student,” said Snow. “I wasn’t a good student in high school so I doubted my ability to succeed academically. I needed encouragement and inspiration and I found it at WCC. Not only from my instructors, but from the myriad of new friends and acquaintances I made.”
He became engaged with his studies, in part, due to the amazing instructors he encountered. In English, he excelled under the guidance of several of his instructors who ultimately pushed him to become a tutor in the Writing Center and a teaching assistant in the English department. “While working for instructors like Julie Kissel and Stephanie Gelderloos, I was able to see classroom management from the instructors ‘side’ of the room. This was very valuable for someone going into education, like myself,” Snow said of his experiences.
Furthermore, the real world experience that so many of the instructors bring to the classroom made it that much easier to learn. “When you have
instructors such as Lynn Rivers, a former U.S. Congresswoman, teaching an intro government class, it just brings an added depth to the course that you’re never going to get simply by reading a textbook. How can you not learn from that?!” Snow exclaimed.
During his first semester at WCC Snow admitted to some trepidation thinking that because of his age (on the 50 side of 40) he might not be accepted into a college setting. Quite the opposite happened, and Snow found himself welcomed by the younger students. He’s become friends with many of them and they serve as a support system to each other. Snow also credits his newfound WCC friends in their 20s and 30s – in helping him learn and grow personally and academically.
“Working with younger students has allowed me to keep my thinking fresh. It also allows me to see certain things from a younger perspective,” Snow added. “The really nice thing is that many of us are going into the education program at Eastern, so we’ll be bringing our own network. This is much easier than walking onto a new campus cold.”
Snow will graduate with a 4.0 grade point average and an Associate of Arts degree in Elementary Education – a far cry from his high school experience. He credits his academic skills to his WCC instructors, his WCC friends and to the support of his wife who allowed him the time he needed to study.
To those who question the quality of education at community colleges Snow says, “they don’t know what they’re talking about. I could talk about this college for days. In fact, I’ve probably grown more in the last three years than in the past 20.”
After the May 17 commencement Snow will have little time to relax. He begins his pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Eastern Michigan in the summer. It’s very likely, that when Snow becomes a teacher he will give back to his students the value, inspiration and encouragement that he received at Washtenaw Community College.