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Amazing by all standards: Ace VC student Phil Riehl

Phil Riehl

By Alisa Angelakis, Chemeketa Courier (Original article [pdf])

16 May 2008

Phil Riehl has one hectic schedule.

Riehl, a Visual Communications major, plans to graduate from Chemeketa this summer. He is on track to fi nish Chemeketa’s VC program within two years. According to Christine Linder, the program chair, it takes most students three years to complete the program.

“Phil is outstanding,” Linder, said. “He has the dedication that it takes. He has the pressure to do it and do it well.”

Riehl said, “I’m pretty much the lone wolf, doing it in two years. It would be better to do it in three, but time is of the essence. I have a wife and a 2-year-old.”

Riehl, 30, had tried college before. He attended Chemeketa for three terms in 1996. “Maybe I wasn’t really mature enough to value school then,” he said. “I just saw it as something I had to do. Now that I’m back 10 years later, ... it’s so important.”

From 2000 to 2005, Riehl was the lead singer in a hardcore rock band called Edict. Riehl said, “Music was always an infl uence in my life. I’ve always been inspired by musicians. I got together with some guys and we started a band. “The biggest show we ever did was with Switchfoot in 2004.”

After getting married, Riehl said he worked as a custodian for his church and found other side jobs while still promoting the band. “I did whatever would pay the bills and kept waiting for the band to take off,” he said. But aside from some local success, the band struggled. In 2005, Riehl’s band members decided that they wanted to take the band in a different direction.

“In a hardcore rock band; there’s a lot of screaming,” Riehl said. “I wanted to stay true to these roots. They wanted to try more ballads and said that I wasn’t good enough. “It was a bitter breakup, but something good came out of it.”

Riehl said he realized that he needed an education to make a better life for his family. “And I wanted to show those guys ... prove to them that I can really do something and do it well,” he said. “Walking out of a band situation ... them saying you’re not any good ... feeling like, ‘I suck.’ Being a part of this refining process here (at Chemeketa), I know I don’t suck. It’s very empowering to be here. It makes me feel good about myself, like I can do anything.”

Riehl said his old band fell apart shortly after he left. “I had done the bulk of promoting for the band,” he said. Riehl had designed T-shirts, posters, stickers, and the band’s website.

It was his love of graphic design that led Riehl to Chemeketa’s VC program. “I just pulled myself up by my bootstraps, got some determination, and came back,” he said. “I think I’m probably in a better place. You never know in a band ... financially. With an education, I can provide better for my family. I’m very glad I’m here.”

As far back as middle school, Riehl said he had wanted to become a comic book artist. “I always liked drawing super heroes,” he said. Riehl said he had wondered about how he was going to take care of his family and go to school at the same time. “I was really worried about money in the beginning, but I just got in and did it,” he said.

PSIChemeketa’s Financial Aid and Cooperative Work Experience programs have been of great assistance to Riehl. “I’m very appreciative of them,” he said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be here.” Through Chemeketa’s CWE program, Riehl started working for a company that sells traffic control devices. “They were looking for a student to design and keep up their website,” he said. “It was a great summer job.” Riehl continues to work part-time for that company. “They pay me well,” he said. “They understand my value. A lot of people say they’re in art for expression ... art for art’s sake. I want to make some money. I don’t live in the best neighborhood, and I want a change for my family.”

“A couple of years ago, the guy living across the parking lot from our apartment was high or something. He came out of his house shooting a shotgun. The SWAT team was called. It was just scary. At that point, we were like, ‘We’ve got to do something. We’ve got to make more money and get out of here.’”

Riehl said that working and going to school was difficult and cut down on the time that he got to spend with his family. “You go all day, then you have homework. You don’t have an evening or a weekend. It’s all the same. But I’m down with that. I can handle it,” he said. “I tend to stay focused. I like to be really organized. It’s got to be that way or else it’s going to be freakin’ chaos. “I schedule dates with my wife. Spending time with my family is important. Family is No. 1. It has to be; they’re the reason I’m here. But I’ve got to focus while I’m here.”

Riehl achieved honor roll status last term while taking six classes. “I’ve changed from thinking maybe I could do this to I will do this. I will complete this program and do it with fl ying colors,” he said. “It’s that dedication that keeps me up till three in the morning getting stuff done.”

Riehl said that he does find a little time to relax. “My time off is best spent playing with my kid—with my daughter riding around on my back playing horsey—and spending time with my wife,” he said. “I’m just a family man, I guess. “Sometimes, I sneak off and bust some heads playing video games.” He also said that he tried to find time for his friends.

Riehl said the instructors at Chemeketa were helpful and encouraging. “I don’t feel like it’s just a job to them. They take time to make sure we understand what we’re doing. They want us to succeed. They bend over backwards to make sure we can do the jobs we’re training for. They’re always accessible. They’re awesome,” he said. “They’ve helped me so much. When I thought I couldn’t do it, they told me I could.”

Riehl said he planned to earn his bachelor’s degree at the Art Institute of Portland. He will be moving his family to Portland when he starts classes there in September. He said that while he expected the Art Institute to be even more challenging, he was confident that he was receiving good training at Chemeketa.

“It’s setting me up to succeed, either at the Art Institute or working in general,” he said. “If you have the proper training and education, you can do anything. “The future is wide open.”

For more student and staff profiles, go to www.chemeketa.edu.