Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

Gregory Butts
Assistant Professor, Technical Careers

When I reflect on my first impression of Cody, I become aware that I did, indeed, make assumptions about him based on his appearance. I thought I knew his background, family situation, and economic circumstances because of what I believed to be true simply because of his looks.

Tall, thin, blonde-haired and blue-eyed, wearing the nicest pair of leather work boots in the class, I thought Cody had the world by the tail. “That kid is popular, has the support of his family, and has had an easy time all through school,” is what I told myself. Little did I know then that Cody had practically raised himself, taken care of an alcoholic parent, and spent the summer picking up pop cans by the side of the road in a rural Michigan farming community in order to pay for his boots.

First impressions can be deceiving. I soon learned that not only did I need to teach Cody Precision Machining bench-work, the functions of both manual and computerized lathes, and the basics of CNC programming, I needed to teach him how to communicate in writing with co-workers on the factory floor, present himself to employers, function as a member of a team in job settings, and believe in his own ability to be successful.

Over the course of the semester I learned a lot about Cody, and Cody taught me a great deal. When Cody presented himself at West Campus, and said he was interested in the Professional Skilled Trades, he knew that those very Trades were the conduit for changing his life. My job was to take the interest and determination that Cody had, and channel it into skills for learning in the classroom, and working in the world.

Cody and I still stay in touch. He works for a local manufacturing company that now pays Cody’s tuition to keep learning. He is in the 2nd year of a 4 year apprenticeship program, and receives pay raises every 6 months. Not only is Cody building a life of self-sufficiency based on meaningful work, but he has influenced other entry-level workers at his company to come back to school. His outstanding performance on the job has led to a strong relationship between the company he works for and our Precision Machining Program at LCC West.

Cody epitomizes the goals and purpose of institutions like Lansing Community College.