Surveys have shown that up to 50% of high school graduates who want to attend college are not sure what to study. Enrolling at Middlesex Community College can provide opportunities to explore different academic programs while earning valuable credits toward a degree, even for those who subsequently change their major or decide to transfer to a four-year school later in their career.
To some degree, this describes Jeff Myjak’s educational journey. Readers from Middletown may already know Jeff as the person to contact for returning redeemable cans, with proceeds going to area charities, including the Magic Food Bus pantry.
But that’s Jeff’s more recent career, so to speak.
Jeff grew up in Portland and Middletown and studied electronics at Vinal Tech High School, graduating from there in 1976. His teacher in high school (Tony Agnes) also taught at Middlesex, so he enrolled in the cable telecommunications program at the college that fall.
He also worked part-time while attending Middlesex and in his last semester completed an internship at TelePrompTer Cable, which evolved into what is now known as Comcast. This led to a job with the company upon graduating in 1979.
After about a year working in telecommunications, Jeff’s role began to involve a lot more travel and moving around the country. However Jeff said he wanted to stay in the area, settle down, and start a family. So he switched gears and began a successful 20-year career in retail management, working in local grocery and department stores.
By his 30s, Jeff had developed an interest in the stock market and wanted to get away from always working during holidays at his retail job. He decided to continue his education and pursue a bachelor’s degree in finance.
With 60 credits transferred from Middlesex, Jeff attended Central Connecticut State University and graduated in 1996. He followed this up with an M.B.A. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Hartford in 2000.
Jeff also completed an internship at Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford and spent the next 20 years working there as a financial analyst. He retired in 2020 after the pandemic hit.
Over the years, Jeff volunteered at St. Vincent DePaul food pantry and stated on his LinkedIn page, “One of my passions is helping people. Whether it be training a coworker or helping to maintain the local dog park.”
About four years ago, Jeff learned that only 51% of redeemable cans and bottles are returned in Connecticut. He did some research about the 1980 bottle bill and discovered that many people just don’t feel a nickel per container is worth the extra time to get the money back.
“700,000 million cans and bottles are not returned each year, and so that money goes to the state. Why not put that money back into the community?” Jeff asked.
In 2018, while he was still working at Pratt, he began a new volunteer effort called Can-4-A-Cause and collected donations of unredeemed cans and bottles. It brought in $1,200 that year with all of the money going back to the community. The following year it grew to $5,000. Last year, it was up to $20,000. And this year, 2021, Jeff projects to put around $35,000 back into the community.
With numbers like these, Jeff registered Cans-4-A-Cause as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit earlier this year. The majority of the money now raised from returning the cans and bottles are used to support organizations such as local food pantries, St. Vincent De Paul, area holiday toy drives, Warm The Children, the Buttonwood Tree, domestic abuse programs, and area veterans programs. He said a small portion of the proceeds helps fund the purchase of bins so people can drop off their donations and other basic operational costs such as a website.
“We look for quality groups that really need the help, so I spoke to Trent [Wright] to learn about the process to donate to the Magic Food Bus at Middlesex,” said Jeff. That led to a $1,000 donation last month.
Cans-4-A-Cause also gives high school students, Boy Scouts, and other volunteers the chance to provide service hours to the community at sorting events.
While working in cable TV wasn’t Jeff’s lifelong career, he began his college experience at Middlesex and used those credits to fulfill a progression of achievements later in his career.
“Middlesex is a great place to start. You may not always be sure what you want to do. It’s a good launching tool to find out where you want to go,” Jeff added.
By Thea Moritz