It’s fairly common for a person to start college, take a few classes and then drop out because of family, work, finances or health reasons. Richard Sickels’ college experience is a classic example of what many people go through, stopping out and then returning later as a more focused and disciplined student who is determined to succeed.

Sickels first attended LSC in 2011, intent on earning a business degree. “I was excited to go back to school. I had heard great things about LSC,” he said.  After a year and a half of attending LSC, school fell through the cracks as he struggled to juggle school and work. “Things didn’t go as planned. I thought my collegiate career had come to a disappointing end at the age of 25.”

He ended up getting a job at the railroad and worked there for the next three years. “I enjoyed the work, but when the oil business took a hit in 2015, I found myself without a job when many of us were laid off. I spent the next six months trying to figure out what I was going to do for work as a 29-year-old without a college degree.”

Sickels found his passion, his self-discipline and his career path to teaching when he returned to college. He formed a game plan with the help of Doreen Hernesman, his TRiO counselor who gave him some great advice to take some career tests. “It helped me realize I had strengths in reading and writing. The career testing also helped me recognize my talent for teaching. I had trained people for years in all of my jobs because I communicated well with the new hires.”

After completing his AA degree at LSC, Sickels plans to transfer to the University of Wisconsin-Superior to earn an education degree in English and then go into teaching, preferably in a small school. “The teachers at Lake Superior College have been some of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of learning from — Jocelyn Pihlaja has been such a big part of my development as a reader and writer. She helped me find my focus in life and refine it to the point that I feel confident in the path I’m taking in life, instead of just floating and drifting with life’s currents.”

He has taken many of his courses online which posed challenges at times. “My courses have almost been entirely online. Self-discipline has been the biggest thing I’ve had to learn. It was finding an organizer and actually writing down what I have to do and when that really helped me stay on track.”

He also learned not to overcommit on his class load. “My first time at college, I took several accelerated classes, thinking that I could relax for the second part of the semester. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into! This time around, I worked my way up and settled on four a semester. It’s difficult, but I know that I can handle it if I don’t allow myself to be distracted by outside factors like football and video games.”

Sickels has gained a new perspective on learning and teaching. “The teachers at LSC care about their subjects and that their students actually understand them. That makes all the difference in the world. I can only hope to take away a fraction of what I have learned from them into my own teaching career in the future.”

Richard Sickels Online AA Degree Student

“My teachers have been the best. They helped me find joy in learning and my focus in life.”

“I found my voice as a writer at LSC, thanks to English faculty Jocelyn Pihlaja and other teachers.”

Richard Sickels
Alum, Online Liberal Arts and Sciences AA