Joseph St. Antoine is a prime example of what perseverance, drive and determination can lead to, even if you grow up in a difficult environment. Here’s the ups-and-downs of Joseph’s journey, in his own words:
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I grew up in Milwaukee until around 15 years old. My family then moved to Plymouth to finish my high school years and I graduated in 2003. I had a very rocky childhood that included growing up in a domestic violence household fueled by alcohol. I had to get out of that situation as fast as I could as it was getting worse so I took up what I knew best at the time, automotive. I got hired at Sears Auto center at 18 (That led me into moving to my current location of Fond du lac at 19) and worked my way up the chain to a district trainer of Firestone by 25. I was managing 13 Midwest district stores in training and development of their automotive technicians. I bought my house at 20 and decided I will more than likely stay there until I retire. Currently I am 32 years old. I have been with my wife for 13 years in which we have two beautiful children named Paige (2) and Joey (.6). I am working for the state in the Department of Corrections. I am an avid drag racer, hunter, fisherman and I like to tinker around with making vehicles fast on the weekends.
Why did you choose your program of study?
I initially wanted to go into college for law enforcement/corrections when I was 18. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I put that aside and went into a technical trade first (automotive). When I had the opportunity to get back to college for the career I wanted at 26 I jumped right on it.
I always thought there was something “missing” in my previous line of work in automotive. I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. I wanted to show others that no matter how hard your life can get, you can rise to the top and live your dreams. I wanted to have a job that is stable for my family, which has good benefits and room to grow. I wanted to see the change I have on people. The Corrections program at Moraine Park was a great fit.
What has your experience been like at Moraine Park?
Honestly, it was not very good the first semester. I was very resistant to change and being that detached from a school-like setting since 2003, it took me a while to shape myself into a model student. Two instructors changed my perspective starting my second semester – Jim Brace and Rob Heyerman. I could connect with them on a more personal level other than the old (teacher/student) situation a lot of people see during school. They knew how “non-b.s.” I was and could see that I needed someone to guide me correctly to achieve my goals.
Rob was and still is my mentor and my idol. He guided me throughout college and could see the good in me as I did in him. You don’t get that kind of connection in other colleges. You don’t have instructors like Rob that see more than just a student. He sees the person you are and leads you down the correct path to achieve your dreams. You can’t ask for a better person than him. His classes were amazing and I use the tools he gave me every day performing my job duties.
Jim Brace is in a league of his own. He was a Corrections core class teacher during my years at Moraine Park. He was what I would call the most realistic teacher as far as telling the students what we were getting ourselves into in the field of Corrections. The students need that. They need to be taught every aspect of the job even if it’s not the glorious “superhero” side of things that most core teachers have a tendency to lean towards. I enjoyed every aspect of his classes. Speaking to Jim on a personal level was easy for me. He was and still is my backbone in the field of Corrections. To this day, if I need anything or just need someone to talk to about dealing with certain “bad aspects” of the job he has no problem helping and will always be there for me.
All-in-all it was a great experience getting my high honor Corrections degree at Moraine Park. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to take that step in getting their college education.
Where has your career taken you after graduation?
I was actually hired by the Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections as an Officer before I graduated from Moraine Park. I went through the Corrections academy and finished my degree at the same time where I came in at a high honors level. I worked as an Officer for quite a few years to continue developing my skills with interacting with inmates/proper use of force/de-escalation etc. Now I advanced my career into working for the Bureau of Correctional Enterprises which is a branch of the DOC/DAI.
I instruct and teach inmates on technical trades such as metal fabrication and automotive. I finally do what I love that combined my technical abilities and Corrections. I get the opportunity to make a huge difference in people’s lives. I finally get the opportunity to give others very useful tools to use when they finish their sentence so they live a productive and hopefully crime free life. A lot of the inmates grew up in bad households or in situations where the life of crime seemed like the only way to go.
This is what I spoke of earlier. I can and do connect with the inmates on that level and show them the proper ways to achieve success. It doesn’t have to be a life of crime. It can be a life of happiness and dreams if you never give up on yourself. Over the years, I have seen the changes in the inmates not only when I was an Officer but when I teach them the trades in my current position as well. They are proud of their work and take every opportunity to advance themselves within the trade they chose. That’s the “missing” part I always spoke of when I worked in just the automotive industry.
What are your future career goals?
I’d like to work my way up to a superintendent of the DOC entity I am part of now. Maybe one day I will laterally transfer into a Captain’s position but for now I like what I am doing within the DOC.
What advice do you have for others considering a career in corrections?
If you want a stable career, many areas of opportunity to grow within the field and love to make a positive impact on the lives of others-do it. It’s not all glory and greatness but if you can see the good and not focus on the bad, you will do great.
The Corrections degree at Moraine Park can a take you anywhere you’d like within the realm of criminal justice, social work or any other public service. You have to work hard but it’s all worth it in the end when you walk across that stage at graduation. I encourage anyone who feels that they are “missing” that something in their job to go out there and take that first step in getting your college degree at Moraine Park.
For more information on Moraine Park’s corrections degree – and all our career options – visit morainepark.edu/programs.
And for more insight from Joseph, check out this link at Corrections.com to read “I’ll see you when you get home.”