Jon Silberhorn II is usually up before the sun. Every day, he says goodbye to his wife and four young children to be on the Missouri S&T campus early for his 8 a.m. lectures. But he’s not teaching the classes. He is taking them.
The junior from St. Peters, Mo., is studying mechanical engineering to support his family in a career he’s always been interested in. Silberhorn’s associate’s degree in electronics was not supporting his family and left him working odd jobs to make ends meet. He’s been a cook at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, manager of a Radio Shack, a business-to-business salesman and a server at the Boeing Leadership Center.
A co-worker at the Boeing Leadership Center prodded, “I know why I am here, but why are you, Jon?” With this little push, Silberhorn enrolled in introduction to engineering at St. Charles Community College (SCC) and earned an A. After completing his general education classes, Silberhorn made the tough decision to move his family to Rolla so he could attend S&T.
For Silberhorn, uprooting his family was the hardest part of the transition. “We made friends in St. Peters and knew who to call to babysit the kids or borrow tools from,” he says. “When we got to Rolla we knew no one; we had to start all over.”
It is a constant battle for balance between family and school, but Silberhorn is managing it all and doing well in his classes. “It is really tough when I have little ones that scream ‘daddy’ when I walk in the door,” Silberhorn says. “Family has to be number one, but my time has to be a balance between school and family.”
Despite the challenges of being a returning and transfer student, Silberhorn knows that it will all be worth it in the end. “A degree from Missouri S&T is well valued in the engineering community,” he says.
Because of his struggles, Silberhorn is going to ensure that his children know the importance of education. “I will tell my children that no matter what, getting a degree is useful,” he says. “There is so much to learn that you can use in everyday life; learning will never hurt you.”
He has also demonstrated to them the importance of giving back. Silberhorn founded a chapter of Angel Food Ministries, which offers discounted groceries to the poor, at his former church. By the time that Silberhorn passed the leadership on to someone else, the ministry was helping to feed more than 100 families. “I want to give to the community rather than take from it,” he says.
Silberhorn hopes to eventually work in the automotive industry. But for now, he is focused on being an exceptional student and family man.
By Arielle Bodine