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Giving Thanks: A Print Journey Fueled by Mentorship

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Today’s not about the usual insights or education pieces; it’s about me—my story, how I found my groove in the printing world, and the fantastic folks who helped shape my journey. So, settle in for a bit of a personal tale!

Back in the day, I was that kid always creating something out of paper. When I couldn’t get my hands on the latest toy or hog the PlayStation, I crafted my own versions out of paper. I made a makeshift PlayStation with a magnetic disc and even curated my own magazines, mimicking my mom’s People Magazine. Crafting things with my hands, especially starting with a blank sheet of paper, was my happy place.

But high school? Ugh. It felt like a series of subjects that didn’t light a spark in me. Doodling in my books became my go-to. You might wonder, why not delve into the arts? Well, the art classes around me didn’t quite match what I envisioned. It was more about clay pottery and charcoal drawings, far from the realm of lithography or design that I craved.

David Hutchinson – Carroll County Career and Tech Center

Carroll County Career and Tech Center in Westminster, MD

Enter David Hutchinson and the Carroll County Career and Tech Center. My mom, being in the education system, knew about this gem. It was a whole world away from the conventional high school setup, offering programs from Cosmetology to Print Production. Getting in was no cakewalk—grades, extracurriculars, they scrutinized everything. But that visit to the Print Production lab, meeting the wildly enthusiastic Mr. Hutchinson, sealed the deal. His energy, those designs on the walls, and his “fill out the form now, waive the fee” moment—it was a leap I needed to take.

And I did.

Myself and classmates with Mr. David Hutchinson

The initial weeks were rough—Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, all felt overwhelming. A couple of classmates dropped out, but I stayed, nudged by my parents. And boy, am I glad they pushed me through those tough days!

I can’t thank Hutch enough for giving me the tools to become who I am today. You jump started my career and put me ahead of the curve in every job, challenge, and competition I was faced with. 


Myself (middle) winning 1st at Nationals.

Then came SkillsUSA, a competition that stirred both excitement and apprehension. My parents initially hesitated, but their support became my backbone. They even made the trip to watch me win 1st at SkillsUSA Nationals in Kentucky!

I thank my parents for supporting me through the process, learning with me, and showing up to every single one of my events

Michael Born – CatNorth

But that was just the beginning. My journey expanded into research and development, thanks to Hutch, leading me to CATNorth and a mentor, Michael Born. He delved into the nuances of offset jobs and mentoring me with industry knowledge. 

I thank you Mr. Born for trajecting my knowledge when I wasn’t even your student. 

Mike Vares – PGAMA

Myself and Mike Vares

And then there was Mike Vares, who introduced me to the real-world side of printing, paving the way for an internship at Strategic Factory. His guidance and later involvement with the Print & Graphics Association of the Mid-Atlantic (PGAMA) broadened my horizons in ways I couldn’t imagine – speaking at conferences on my experience and offering industry education.

I thank Mike Vares for guiding me through my internship and being a close printing friend to this day. 

Professors at Millersville University

Myself and Dr. Mark Snyder

College beckoned, and professors like Dr. Snyder, Professor Painter, and Dr. Bell at Millersville University became pillars of support, offering real-world insights and mentorship that enriched my understanding.

Thank you Dr. Snyder for being there for me every step of the way, a teacher I can laugh with, and someone who supported me when I needed it.  

Thank you Professor Painter for taking on my internship programs, being the teacher who offered flexibility, and showing me all of your InDesign tricks. 

Thank you Dr. Bell for being my first face at Millersville, showing me the basics of what great teaching looked like, and being my connection in the industry I will have forever. 

Jeff Tomlinson – Atlantic Graphic Systems

The recent chapter of my journey landed me at Atlantic Graphic Systems, courtesy of Jeff Tomlinson, who trusted me to carve my path. This past year has been a whirlwind of learning and growth, feeling like I’ve lived a lifetime in the industry.

Thank you Jeff Tomlinson for seeing the potential in me and giving me real world experiences at such a young age.

Giving Thanks

To all these incredible souls I’ve mentioned, and to countless others who’ve been part of my journey—thank you. Each of you has left an indelible mark on my career and life, teaching me lessons beyond print and shaping me into who I am today.

So here’s to gratitude, to the mentors, teachers, and friends who’ve been my guiding stars. You’re the ink that colors my story!

Happy Thanksgiving week to you all – thankful for the industry and those who took the time to read my story.

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