LCCC's Fast-Track program helped Greg Stocker turn an unexpected layoff into an opportunity to get ahead

Nearly 20 years ago, Gregory Stocker was one physical education class short of earning his associate degree from Lorain County Community College. He walked in the 2003 LCCC commencement ceremony and planned to take that final class over the summer, and then find employment.

Employment found him first.

“I got hired into the IT field that summer, and I wasn’t able to finish that last class,” said Stocker, now 46 and living in Lorain. “I still have that blank diploma cover from 2003, and it’s something that was always in the back of my mind.”

He built a successful career in the IT field, working for a retail company and planned to work there until retirement. But then the pandemic hit and Stocker was laid off in June 2020. He knew it was the right time to focus on his education and return to LCCC to finally complete his degree, but he wasn’t sure he was ready to go back to the classroom.

Stocker was connected with LCCC’s Fast Track program, which retrains students for careers in in-demand fields in as little as 16 weeks. Through the Fast Track program, he found support and guidance from Michelle Pawlak, Fast Track program coordinator.

“Michelle has been a great counselor and advisor this past year. She has always prepared me for what was next and gave me the confidence that this was something that I could be successful at doing,” Stocker says.

With that newfound confidence, Stocker found success. He completed the Computer Information Systems - Software Development short-term certificate in the fall of 2020.

What’s more, after Pawlak reviewed his previous coursework, he found out that he was only three classes away from an associate degree. He is finishing those classes and will graduate in May with an Associate of Applied Business in Network Communications Technology.

After graduation, Stocker plans to look for work in the IT field, while also continuing his education with a bachelor’s degree through LCCC’s University Partnership.

Stocker says is thankful for the opportunity to continue his education close to home and at an affordable price.

“LCCC was very helpful, compassionate, and welcoming to me at a time when I was not sure what the future would hold,” he says.