This was originally published on Forbes.com.
By Lisa Prince Rutsky
I’ve worked with thousands of students in the course of my career. If a student is struggling with motivation, I listen and learn more about their goals and interests, nudging, encouraging and celebrating successes along the way. Every once in a while, though, an exceptional young person comes along who needs no push—who actually pulls others along with them.
I got to meet one of those individuals a few weeks ago, at Penn Foster’s commencement ceremony, which convened nearly 600 High School Diploma, Career School and Penn Foster College graduates. Most of our students complete their courses online, and we don’t get to meet a large percentage of the thousands of people who graduate each year. We invited this student to the graduation for a very special reason: we selected him as our 2018 Graduate of the Year.
His name is Kevin Stankovich and he's from Riley Township, Michigan. What made him unique among our other grads this year was not just that he earned an associate degree in Architectural/Construction Technology in 2012, and both a bachelor's of Interior Design and a certificate in Kitchen & Bath Design in 2014, all from Baker College. It's also because rather than being satisfied with those accomplishments, he launched his own design-build business, Kevin Stankovich Constructing LLC, teaches courses at Baker College and completed multiple Penn Foster programs to learn specific skills that would add to his business and teaching capabilities. A testament to his success is that he was recently hired for a commercial project for the Tennant & Associates Showroom at the Michigan Design Center in Troy.
I wondered what is it within Kevin that spurs him to success. In talking to him, it became clear that several factors play into his desire to be an excellent teacher and a trustworthy, reliable and competent designer-builder. He attributes some of this drive to his hard-working family, and particularly, to his grandfather, who taught him how to build and repair nearly anything in and around the house. What ties everything together is his desire for lifelong learning. Kevin says he’s had that characteristic since he was a kid. "I’ve always been interested in the skilled trades, and any course I can take that will make me better at anything I do—I’ll take it."
While Kevin started out on the traditional college path, his plans changed when he realized he wanted to take additional courses. But with running a business full time and teaching college part-time, the only possibility for further learning would need to happen via the internet. He started looking at online schools that allow students to complete programs at their own pace. Once he found Penn Foster, he dove in.
Kevin has completed three Penn Foster Career Diploma programs and one Certificate program in just the past few years: Furniture & Cabinet Maker, Home Inspector, Plumber, and Green Building Practices. "The first program I completed was the Furniture and Cabinet Maker Career Diploma—I especially liked the history portion—and I actually build furniture and cabinets now." He chuckles when he notes, "Penn Foster used to mail you the books, and I still have and use the books from the course—and books from other courses I’ve taken."
Kevin didn’t envision himself getting into the design-build world, much less teaching courses to others interested in the field. "If you told me my senior year in high school what degrees I would have, what I would be doing or my other accomplishments after I graduated high school, I would never have believed it," he says. He credits part of this success to his being able to try out many types of courses through Penn Foster. "Because it’s affordable and self-paced, I’m able to consider a wider range of programs. I’m next planning to take the Locksmith Training Program, and am always on the lookout for other courses that will make me better in my business or when I am in the front of my own classroom."
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