Working third shift as a machinist in Woodstock to support a wife and five kids at home (the oldest of six is married), Joseph Bilodeau, 46, is enhancing his career opportunities with a college degree. He is completing his requirements in MCC's Fast Track program and will graduate in May with an Associate in Applied science degree in manufacturing management.
He maintained a 4.0 GPA and now works toward his bachelor's degree to help him qualify for promotional opportunities at his place of work. He is also working toward a CNC certificate, which would qualify him to work on computer numerical controlled machines. Before coming to college, Bilodeau worked at Black Dot Graphics for 17 years until shortly before they closed their Crystal Lake facilities. He worked in all phases of pre-press production, from hand-stripping and camera work to digital type and image editing.
Being unemployed for about one year, he returned to college about the same time he saw his oldest daughter complete her degree at MCC.
"She set the bar and I had to live up to it," he said. "If an opportunity for career advancement comes up, I'm better prepared for it. MCC is convenient to where I live and work."
He received the MCC Founding Faculty scholarship, which provided full tuition, allowing him to complete his associate degree without sacrificing the family budget.
"The scholarship has been a tremendous relief, knowing that I would be able to finish my degree without having to choose between school expenses and other family expenses," Bilodeau said. "The course load has been challenging, but it's also been highly enjoyable, giving me the opportunity to stretch my mind wide over fields outside my career, as well as deeper within my vocational disciplines. I met really top-notch students. Some are young enough to be my own kids; others are older, like me."
While working on his degree, he joined various student organizations and beginning this May, he will serve as the chapter president of Phi Theta Kappa, an international honor society for community colleges. His work earned him the honor of Distinguished Chapter Officer. He was one of only 30 students to win this prestigious award from over 1,300 chapters internationally. He was presented the award at the recent Phi Theta Kappa international convention in San Jose, California.
According to Heidi Boring, chapter co-advisor, Bilodeau was selected for his outstanding work on MCC's Chi Upsilon chapter's College Project, Honors in Action Project, Hallmark award submissions, scholarship fundraising and participation in the Five Star Competitive Edge personal development program.
"Diane Terlep and I would like to say that, as chapter advisors, we are very proud of Joe's accomplishment," Boring said. "We are thankful for his outstanding service to our chapter, the college, and the community."
Looking to the coming year as chapter president, Bilodeau plans to find ways for people who have little time for participating in lengthy service projects to still get involved through virtual projects.
"We do a research project every year but many students, such as my classmates in the Fast Track program, are busy with full time day jobs in addition to school. Many of them can't attend meetings, but they can still help with research and email their findings to us," he said.
His only regret with returning to college?
"I wish I’d done this 20 years earlier. Better late than never, though."