Student finds success close to home

Posted April 21, 2009, at 7:35 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A 20-year-old Orland man who was home-schooled from kindergarten through the 12th grade will be one of seven community college students from around the state honored Wednesday at a luncheon at the Senator Inn hosted by the Maine Community College System board of trustees.

Michael S. Handzel Jr. will graduate next month with an associate degree in business management from Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor. In addition to being a full-time student, Handzel is Student Senate president, a member of Phi Theta Kappa and a student ambassador.

Four different faculty and staff members recommended him for the Student of the Year Award, according to a press release sent out by the college system last week.

“I was ecstatic,” Handzel said Monday of winning the award. “Those people who know me know that I am very rarely speechless, and when I found out, I was speechless.”

He said that he chose EMCC because it was close to home — where he continues to live — and had small classes. In addition, his older sister Sarah Handzel, 24, had a positive experience there.

“I wasn’t really interested in going away to school,” he said. “Because I was home-schooled, I didn’t want to jump into a big school with classes that had 110 people in them. My sister graduated from EMCC in 2005 and transferred all her credits to the hospitality management program at Husson College. Now she’s the manager of the Tim Hortons on Broadway [in Bangor].”

Born and raised in Orland, Handzel is the third of four children and the oldest boy. He started taking classes in the fall semester of 2007, three months after his father, Michael S. Handzel Sr., was killed in a motorcycle accident.

“Different things are important to different people,” Handzel said. “What’s been important to me and my family is a religious commitment. I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and that has been a huge factor in my life. It’s what allowed me to enroll in a new school three months after my dad died and it’s sustained me.”

Handzel and his family regularly attend the Evangel Baptist Church in Bucksport.

He said Monday that he has not settled on a career path but has applied to four-year schools in and out of state as well as abroad. He hopes to begin a bachelor’s degree program this fall.

“I’d like to do something like marketing consultant,” he said of a possible career. “I don’t have anything nailed down, but that really interests me and it’s something I could see myself doing.”

The other 2009 Maine Community College System Student of the Year Award winners are:

— Lewis K. Pratt Jr. of Lewiston, machine tool technology, Central Maine Community College.

— Carol A. Giles of Unity, business administration and accounting, Kennebec Valley Community College.

— Charles C. Zappone of Woodland, nursing, Northern Maine Community College.

— Greggory M. Sevigny of Sanford, criminal justice, Southern Maine Community College.

— Brandon Palmer of Bridgton, mechanical technology, Washington County Community College.

— Melitta A. Nichols of Sanford, liberal studies, York County Community College.

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