Jolene Michaels lives near Mackinaw City doing what she has wanted to do since sixth grade. She is the Library Director at Mackinaw Area Public Library.
“I get to live in an amazing place doing a job I love,” Michaels said.
Michaels didn’t start out at Montcalm Community College. Instead, “I decided that vocational school was all I could hope for, so I went to Kent Skills Center for two years during high school and became a civil engineering drafter,” she said.
But she didn’t stop there. She also created patent drawings for lawyers in Michigan and Florida, taking classes at Grand Rapids Junior College (now Grand Rapids Community College) and Valencia Community College in Orlando, Fla., as she worked. Then she made a big jump into the Air Force.
“When I was 25, I enlisted in the Air Force as an Imagery Interpreter, got married and ended up a veteran of the first Gulf War,” she said.
While Michaels didn’t know it yet, her struggles with her life changes and situation were leading her toward the doors of a library.
“When my daughter started school, I began volunteering in the school library and when my now ex-husband retired from the Air Force, we moved to Howard City to be near my parents,” she said. “I started working in the library there, and over the course of 10 years or so I worked my way from circulation clerk to assistant director. Knowing that I wanted to manage a library someday, I started classes at MCC in order to get the Business Information Systems degree, which seemed to be the best degree for my situation.”
Overcoming challenges, Michaels never gave up on earning her degree. She received an Associate of Business Information Systems at MCC in 2009. Her dream came to fruition when she was hired as Library Director at the Mackinaw Area Public Library in May 2010, where she uses the knowledge learned at MCC and the wisdom learned in a diverse life.
“MCC had a very reasonable schedule for non-traditional students and I took many online classes, which was a big help,” she said. “The classes were also very affordable.”
Looking back, Michaels appreciates her time at MCC.
“I loved college and really enjoyed being a student,” Michaels said. “Though I was annoyed at the time that I would have to come to the school in order to take some of the classes I needed, I now firmly believe that a balance of online and in-person classes is important so people feel less isolated and feel that they are a part of the school.”
Michaels knows that family was important to her college success.
“My mother was a huge help during the time I was at MCC,” she said. “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.”
She also made friends and developed hobbies while attending MCC, which broadened her experiences.
“I made a good friend in Barb Warschefsky, the librarian while I was there, and we are still in contact,” Michaels said. “The school has let me put a geocache out on the nature trails, too, which I go out and check once or twice a year.”
Since MCC, Michaels has enrolled in Central Michigan University’s (CMU) Global Campus online courses. However, an illness in the family along with her hectic work schedule prompted her to withdraw for the time being. She hopes to re-enroll in the future either at CMU or Lake Superior State University.
“I think that even if a person takes only one class a year, as long as they are trying to better themselves, it doesn’t matter how long it takes them to finish a degree,” she said.
“The job here at Mackinaw is the most difficult job I have ever had, but it is also the most interesting and rewarding,” she added.
While MCC was a short period in Michaels’s life, the experience aided in her professional and personal development.
“Attending and graduating from MCC gave me the confidence to take risks that I wouldn’t have before,” Michaels said. “When opportunities come along for people, I see a lot of them that worry about ‘What if this happens?’ or ‘what if that happens?’ They worry about looking like a failure, but there is a fear of success, too, because so many challenges come with it. At some point, it is time to gather up your courage, close your eyes and jump into the deep end of the pool.”