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Waubonsee student Matthew J. Meyer is not afraid of a little hard work. He has carefully juggled school and jobs for many years, managing to succeed at both. For that, the college has named Meyer its Featured Student for September.

Waubonsee Names Meyer Featured Student

Man kneels down to fix car.
Waubonsee has named auto body repair student Matthew J. Meyer, of Plano, its Featured Student for September.

Waubonsee Community College student Matthew J. Meyer, of Plano, is not afraid of a little hard work. He has carefully juggled school and jobs for many years, managing to succeed at both. For that, the college has named Meyer its Featured Student for September.

After graduating from Rockford Lutheran High School in 2002, Meyer chose to attend Rockford College, not really sure of what he wanted to study. While attending courses full time, Meyer also worked 50 hours a week managing an area Petco store. He eventually chose the retail industry over school and then went on to do factory and sales work.

“Everything I went into I was able to grasp really well, but I knew none of it was what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life,” Meyer said.

Then Meyer teamed up with an uncle to do some work that was not for a paycheck but for himself — restoring and painting his 1988 Trans-Am.

“I spent all of my time on weekends working on the car, doing as much as I could, and I was so excited to see the results,” Meyer said.

So when Meyer moved from Rockford back to the Fox Valley area in 2010, he did not waste any time enrolling in Waubonsee’s auto body repair program. That first semester was not easy though, with Meyer taking courses in Sugar Grove during the day and commuting back to his third-shift grocery store manager job in Rockford at night. Only when the store was bought out by another company did Meyer take the opportunity to focus solely on his schoolwork.

Not that Meyer’s work ethic is any less stellar once he’s in the classroom. With a 3.64 cumulative grade point average, Meyer is a member of the college’s National Technical Honor Society, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and Alpha Sigma Lambda Honor Society for adult students. He also finished third in the collision repair category at the Illinois SkillsUSA competition last year.

“The competition has you going nonstop for about six hours,” Meyer said. “You’re constantly moving, and it’s a lot of work, but you definitely learn a lot.”

Of course, Meyer already had a good handle on his hands-on skills thanks to Waubonsee’s program.

“I’ve talked to my classmates here who have come from other schools in the area, and they’ve said that a lot of what they did in those other programs was book work,” Meyer said. “They didn’t really get the hands-on experience, so they didn’t feel as confident trying their work out in the field. They have come back to school to fill the void, and they fulfill that here at Waubonsee.” 

Some of the work Meyer has taken on is not a requirement of the program but just extra effort on his part. He volunteered to redo and reorganize the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) binders in Waubonsee’s auto body shop. Detailing how to safely handle all of the chemicals and hazardous products used in the shop, these sheets are standard requirements in the industry.

“I stayed after class to work on it, and a single 2-inch binder became two 3-inch binders,” Meyer said.

This good work was noticed by Automotive Technology Professor Ken Kunz, who recommended Meyer for the $500 WCC Automotive Technology Scholarship. Meyer also received a $2,000 award from the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR).

Meyer has used those scholarships on the way to earning his Advanced Auto Body Repair Certificate of Achievement, and he has just two more courses in communications and marketing to complete before earning his associate degree in May.

“I had the privilege of going to the Indian Valley Vocational Center in Sandwich to talk about the auto body program, and I told those students that even the courses that aren’t auto body courses all fit into helping you in the industry,” Meyer said. “Every class, in its own way, betters your career. Waubonsee has a well-rounded program.”

Meyer plans to become a bit more well-rounded himself later in his career. He is currently gaining experience working at White Eagle Auto Body in Oswego, but he eventually wants to explore a different aspect of the industry, perhaps working as an insurance adjuster.

“I appreciate instructors like Andy [Assistant Professor of Auto Body Repair Andrew MacDonald] who lay it all out on the table and tell you exactly what to expect in the industry,” Meyer said. “It’s not an easy job, but it’s a fulfilling one that offers a lot of different avenues.”