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Discovering design made all the difference

If not for an immediate dislike of technical drawing and an ongoing relationship with Macomb, Cheryl Sacrates may never have discovered that happiness, as Charles Schultz once assured us, is a warm puppy, or two or three or more.

“I started (at Macomb) in 1991 when I was still in high school,” relates Sacrates, who was offered a partial scholarship as one of the top 50 seniors in her Roseville High School class. “I was going to be an architect but I found that instead of doing the mathematical calculations, I just wanted to make things look pretty.”

That was the first clue that she would be better suited for a career in graphic design, but, at the time, she didn’t know a thing about it.  After earning an associate degree in general studies and stepping hesitantly into an unsatisfying career in accounts payable, Sacrates returned to Macomb and its Career Services Department for help researching and assessing her career options.  She then entered the Media and Communication Arts (MACA) program and earned subsequent degrees in Web Design and Digital Design and Layout.

 “It’s an amazing program with wonderful instructors,” relates Sacrates, communications coordinator for Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester Hills. “Just last month, I called Frank Lombardo (her former photography instructor) and asked him to recommend a camera for our department to buy.”  

Sacrates joined Leader Dogs in 2011 on a part time basis.  Three months before she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications from Oakland University in 2013, she was offered full time and accepted it enthusiastically.

 “I love my job, it’s always changing,” says Sacrates. “I might work on a newsletter this week and an advertisement next week.  I get to go on photo shoots to help set up dogs/puppies for shots I take myself.”

Sacrates also appreciates the casual dress code at Leader Dogs and the shared commitment to the organization’s mission, both of which she attributes for the “high morale” that characterizes her work environment.  And she never minds taking her work home with her.

 “I have raised three Future Leader Dogs and will pick up my fourth on June 10, a male golden retriever,” relates Sacrates. “I get them at seven weeks old and return them for formal training when they are 12-15 months old.  Yes, it’s hard to turn them in.”

There was one, however, that Sacrates didn’t have to say goodbye to after all.  Aizyn, a two-year-old golden retriever, was “career changed” after a few months of training. She is now a certified therapy dog, as well as a permanent member of Sacrates’ family, and she and her mistress visit Beaumont Hospital every other week to the delight of patients and staff. Aizyn also gets to accompany Sacrates to work, as does any Future Leader Dog in the latter’s care. 

 “How many people,” asks Sacrates, “get to bring their dogs to work?”

A fringe benefit, acknowledges the lifelong animal lover, not extended to most architects or accountants.

 “I could never have gotten the job I have now without the MACA program. It taught me everything I needed to know as far as design goes,” says Sacrates. “Now, I get to enjoy my job every day instead of dreading going to work.  I am extremely lucky to have found a career that makes me happy!”

Cheryl Sacrates