Pursuing a college education — one that didn’t break the bank — was a must for first-generation college student Brendan Buffa when he graduated from St. Clair High School in 2012.
“I knew deep down I wanted to continue my education after high school, but the fear of taking on a massive amount of debt was very real to me,” Buffa said. “I was incredibly grateful to my parents, who said that if I did in fact decide to go to college, they’d help pay for my first year at St. Clair County Community College.”
According to Buffa, he found much more than an affordable education at SC4, including faculty members, clubs and experiences that helped him explore options and grow prior to committing to a four-year university. He also discovered a passion that has driven him ever since.
Buffa was approached by SC4 faculty members Gary Schmitz and John Lusk in his first semester to consider writing for the Erie Square Gazette, SC4’s student newspaper. He then spent the next three semesters at SC4 writing, editing and covering Skippers Athletics. The experience helped introduce him to athletes, connect him to campus and the community, and learn about people in a whole new way.
“SC4 taught me individualism,” Buffa said. “The idea that everybody is a person and has a story to tell. That was what made SC4 so unique and memorable. Everybody on campus — whether they were young students, middle-aged students, athletes, faculty, staff —everybody had a story to tell that was so fully unique.”
His campus involvement also made him aware of new career possibilities that could seamlessly merge his passions for writing and sports.
“I didn’t really know there were alternative career paths in athletics,” Buffa said. “My SC4 professors saw hope and drive in me. They challenged and molded me. Thanks to them, I became aware of a new career path and have since been in a full sprint to achieve my goals.”
Buffa transferred to Western Michigan University in fall 2014. With collegiate writing experience already under his belt, he started as a staff writer at the 100-year-old Western Herald before being promoted to assistant sports editor and then editor-in-chief in 2016. He also served as a member of the Student Media Group Board, which was the decision-making entity of the university’s media outlets, where he advocated to give his 60-member writing team experiences they wouldn’t have elsewhere.
“That time in my life was difficult, but it resulted in great success,” Buffa said. “Leading a paper, taking full-time classes and working another part-time job in the midst of it all was really hard to juggle. But SC4’s ability to mold my creativity, leadership and independence was a direct contribution to the success I found and helped others find as well.”
Buffa graduated from WMU in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and sports marketing. Upon graduation, he served as a promotions coordinator at 97.1 The Ticket in Southfield, Michigan, and as a digital content producer and assignment desk editor at WWMT Newschannel 3 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Grateful for all his past experiences — which also include a freelance gig for the Dallas Cowboys and covering the WMU Broncos’ undefeated season and Cotton Bowl game — Buffa remains laser-focused and is thrilled to be starting in a new role with the Detroit Lions as a new media web intern. There, he supports the new media team through backend website assistance, site photo and gallery production, media interview post-copy, article and video creation, and more.
“Working with the Detroit Lions has been the ultimate goal since 2013,” Buffa said. “It’s an opportunity I’ve only dreamed of.”
Ultimately, Buffa looks forward to expanding his roles and expertise in professional sports in the coming years and is more than ready to put in the hard work. An avid community college advocate, he’ll tell anyone who listens that his time at SC4 helped him get his start.
“SC4 is where it all started,” Buffa says. “It was the first time I was able to dip my feet into the water and experience things. It taught me so much about independence and autonomy, and about friendships and support. I found a community at SC4. I’m grateful to my professors to this day.”
He added, “If people want to further their education with college, community college should always and forever be the first consideration. It is wholly accessible to people from all walks of life. If you want to further yourself and are hindered by other commitments or still not sure where you want to direct your path in life, community college will give you the tools and experiences to do so.”