For Matthew Agosto, a first-generation college student, Lorain County Community College put him on the path to success, leading him to two internships and allowing him to earn three degrees — at no cost to himself. Then he landed a full-time job as a software engineer at BrandMuscle.
It all began when Agosto enrolled in LCCC’s Early College High School program, where he graduated high school with a diploma from Lorain High School and associate degrees in both arts and applied science at age 18.
With a head start on his college career, Agosto continued on with LCCC’s University Partnership program, which lets students attend LCCC and earn a bachelor’s degree from a partner university. The program connected him with The University of Toledo’s engineering program, and an award of the Lorain County Community College Foundation’s Computer Science and Engineering Scholarship — which covered the entire amount of tuition — sealed the deal.
“Once I got accepted for the scholarship, it was a no-brainer,” Agosto says.
Agosto knew that being able to earn his bachelor’s degree from The University of Toledo’s highly regarded engineering program debt-free and from LCCC’s University Partnership Ridge Campus in North Ridgeville was an incredible opportunity. But it was LCCC’s cooperative education program that played an unexpectedly instrumental role in helping him find the right career path and land the perfect job.
Gaining practical experience
LCCC’s cooperative education program is a partnership between the college and area businesses that connects students to job experiences in their area of interest. Agosto’s first internship, at R.W. Beckett in North Ridgeville, gave him the opportunity to use the skills he had learned in the classroom, working on both hardware and software projects, programming in Java and maintaining and creating software for testing fixtures. And at Robots & Pencils in Cleveland, he worked primarily on front-end development, creating and maintaining websites and web applications. As his internship progressed, he began working with clients to solve their web needs.
“That was what ultimately sparked my interest in web development, and I now do that on a daily basis at BrandMuscle,” he says. “The co-op gave me something on my resume to show that I worked in the engineering field and have done software work in other big-name companies. Having that experience under my belt really helped me stand out above the rest.”
Dr. Larry Thomas, an associate professor in the electrical engineering and computer science department at The University of Toledo’s College of Engineering, says the co-op experience allows students to apply academic lessons to real-world situations and experience work as a professional.
“We prepare our students for the co-op because it prepares those students for what’s going to come after,” he says.
Thomas, who spent 20 years in corporate IT before becoming a teacher, says he also tries to prepare them for the ups and downs life will throw at them.
“With some things, they’re going to have to stumble and pick themselves up, dust themselves off and go ahead,” he says. “With others, I can give them life lessons and help them avoid some problems.”
A strong focus
Agosto was able to focus on his internships and immerse himself in his coursework without having to take on a job or incur student debt.
“It was nice not to have to worry about working full time and taking classes,” he says. “I was able to relax and focus on school, versus worrying about how I was going to make money to pay for it.”
That focus also allowed him to give his full attention to his senior design project, finding creative ways to incorporate his personal interests. As a drummer, he and two classmates completed an automated drum set, one rigged with microcontrollers to make music from MIDI files come to life, much like a player piano.
“It was a creative, clever solution,” says Thomas. “It was a great project.”
Thomas says Agosto excelled not just in the classroom, but outside it, as well.
“He took a leadership position, mentoring the underclassmen, showing them things and working things through with them,” he says. “That’s just another part of the kind of student he was, paying it forward and passing it along to the underclassmen.”
Agosto graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering, earning an associate degree of applied science in computer science along the way.
And in addition to Thomas, he says faculty members Dr. Jeff Zeager and Brent Nowlin, and his adviser, Adrienne Aguilar, were instrumental in helping him succeed.
Agosto says his entire LCCC experience led him to the start of his career at BrandMuscle.
“It’s been awesome,” he says. “My co-op experience was the best thing that LCCC and the program did for me.”