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Student Stories

Plus 50 students across the nation come from different walks of life but they all have one thing in common: the Plus 50 Initiative has changed their lives. Some students came to campuses to re-skill for changing career demands, pursue new employment opportunities, or to give back to their communities, while others take classes to enrich their lives and re-invent themselves. The Plus 50 Initiative has captured their experiences and compiled a rich anthology of student stories. Hear from the plus 50 students themselves to see if the Plus 50 Initiative is right for you.

A High School Dropout Goes to College at Age 50+
Growing up in New York City, Bill Browne never really saw a need for higher education. "My family just wasn't into the whole higher education thing and I didn't have any examples go before me," said Browne.

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A Factory Mechanic Aims to be a Writer
George Below is no stranger to the classroom. The former mechanic is now aiming to earn his living as a writer, and attending classes at Luzerne County Community College in Pennsylvania.

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Plus 50 Spotlight: Suzan Mitchell
After dropping out of her suburban Chicago high school in the early 1970s, Suzan Mitchell made a promise to her mother that she would eventually return and get her diploma. Thirty-five years later, she did.

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A Consultant Finds His Passion at 61
Don't let his title as a consultant for the North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance fool you. He's really into picking up the pen and writing.

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A Dollmaker Seeks to Re-Kindle Her Business
Kathy Redmond is no stranger to success. But even the renowned porcelain doll sculptor's business could not survive the financial recession. Now she’s making a new start.

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Charting A Course Out of Career Uncertainty
It is war out there in the job market and you don’t want to go out unarmed, says Terry Bloom, who is facing a career change.

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Training for a Green Job After Economic Catastrophe
Cyndy Patzman lost her business and her home amid the fallout of the economic recession. Now she's getting a new start at Clover Park Technical College.

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A Plus 50 Student Acquires Confidence
Going back to school at age 50 plus may seem daunting, but Elizabeth Alexander found a community when she arrived.

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Learning is a Lifetime Habit, Says Student
"I like learning anything," says Central Florida Community College student Angelina Hubert.

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Lifelong Learning: A Retiree Encourages Others to Try
Take full advantage of the wonderful courses offered by the college, says community college student Hy Beers.

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Overcoming Challenges to Get a GED
Clark College student Francesca Mastrangero found a supportive environment when she went back to school at age 50 plus.

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A Second Career in Nursing: Cape Cod Community College
First year student Thomas Trego says that going back to school at age 50 plus was easy.

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Retired Couple Turns to Nursing to Serve Community
After retiring from careers as engineers, Carol and Jack Lewis decided to go in a completely different direction. They enrolled in the nursing program at a local community college.

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Reaching Out to Non-Traditional Plus 50 Students
"As an advisor and recruiter for non-traditional students I get to spend my days helping older people realize what they want the next chapter of their lives to be," says Kaye Moon Winters.

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Getting a GED at 76: Ruby McNeil Proves Age is Irrelevant
At San Jacinto College, Ruby McNeil is a legend. Her decision to get her GED at age 76 opened the door to a world of discovery.

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A Laid Off Human Resources Director Changes Career Paths
It always bothered 51-year-old Zephia Reese when she had to train her replacement on the job. After a lay-off in 2009, she charted a new course at community college.

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Confronted With Job Layoffs: Two Plus 50 Adults Find New Beginnings
When plus 50 adults Susan Martin and Jim Moviel faced layoffs from their long-time jobs, they turned to community college to find direction and re-train for new careers.

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The 74-Year Old Who Plans to Never Stop Working
Tony O'Brien is a master of reinventing himself. At 74 years young, O'Brien says, "We have to keep working and learning. It's what keeps us young."

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Doing What She Always Wanted: A Zest for Learning is Re-Discovered
Adele Bongiovanni sums up her attitude on her plus 50 years as re-discovering her passion to learn new things and explore possibilities. "There are always things you want to learn but have never had the time or money to do them," says Central Florida Community College student Adele Bongiovanni.

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Creating a Backup Career Plan in a Shaky Economy
Ted English has always prided himself on being a life-long learner. In fact, it was his pursuit of learning and new experiences that brought him to Rapid City, South Dakota from his native Philadelphia.

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A Housewife Becomes a Pharmacy Technician & Finds Fulfillment
Gunnel Lowegard has always enjoyed working in the medical industry. For years she worked as a lab technician in her native Sweden, but that changed when her husband accepted a two-year contract with a company in the United States. Two years turned into almost 19, with no immediate plans to head “home.”

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Supportive College Staff Help Student Switch Careers & Find Success
Career change is no stranger to Richland College graduate Michael Gambill. In fact, he believes it keeps him young and on the cutting edge of things. “Changing career fields is a really wonderful thing,” said Gambill. “It provides new vitality in your life. It brings freshness—new challenges. It puts you back to when you were young and you really enjoyed what you were doing.”

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A Cancer Survivor Discovers a New Career in Healthcare
When her five children were young, Elizabeth Haddon often dreamed of being a nurse. “I had always wanted to be a nurse,” said Haddon. “When I was home with my kids, the idea of going to nursing school gave me something to look forward to once I finished raising my family.”

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Northern Virginia Community College: Retirement “Encore” Jobs Course
The Retirement “Encore” Jobs Course at Northern Virginia Community College focuses on three themes: searching, securing, and surviving. Searching is dedicated to job search techniques, and includes resources tailored to plus 50 job-seekers.

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A Mother Overcomes Adversity and Finds a Gratifying Job as a Caregiver for Disabled Children
Starting your life over at age 50+ is difficult. After her marriage dissolved in divorce, Barbara Smerud and her adult daughter moved to Joliet, Illinois. When her ex-husband lost his decades-long battle with alcoholism and died, they were left with nothing. Smerud was faced with rebuilding a life for herself and her daughter during an economic downturn that made employment hard to find.

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Stay-at-Home Mom Becomes a Teacher for Young People in Trouble
Valerie Skurka-Mountjoy was a stay-at-home mom for twenty-five years. But she always wanted to go back to college later in life and work with young people who were in trouble. After going through a divorce and watching her children leave home for adulthood, she was on her own. And she still wanted to teach.

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Re-Training for a Second Career That Helps Others
Nick Corso turned to Clover Park Technical College when he knew it was time to make a career change. He had attended the community college eight years earlier while taking courses for the licensed practical nursing program, and liked the instructors. It was an obvious choice for him to go back to Clover Park after he survived a second bout with cancer. He knew he couldn't return to his job as a hospice-certified nursing assistant and needed to train for a new career.

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Seeking a New Plus 50 Career: Construction Worker Heads to College
After spending two decades in construction work, John Ruiz realized that he needed to transition to a career that was not as physically demanding. He's fond of saying that he didn't choose to go to college."I didn't decide! My body decided for me! I was in construction for 20 years and started to realize that I had to find something else," said Ruiz. "I went to the VA for an MRI one day and found out that I qualified for vocational rehabilitation. It came with 48 months of tuition support, an income supplement, and money for supplies."

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Finding a New Lease on Life: Environmental Science Student Becomes Student Body President
When Michael Thomas needed a new career, he turned to Clover Park Technical College to re-train and find a new lease on life. He had no idea that his decision to go back to college, would also launch him into a leadership role on campus as student body president.

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Building a New Career and a New Life, Thanks to Community College
After leaving a 27-year marriage and years of emotional abuse, Kristine Bridges needed to find a new direction for her life - she turned to the landscaping and horticulture program at Clover Park Technical College. In only six quarters (about a year and a half), she'll be qualified for a new career. She's planning to volunteer with a program in her community this summer to get hands-on experience while helping low-income families gain an appreciation for gardening.

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Refreshing Valuable Workplace Skills Makes Plus 50 Job Seeker More Employable
LaDonna Roles turned to Community Colleges of Spokane to refresh her job skills and take a course in Microsoft Office Suite. She was floored when her typing rate shot up to 94 characters per minute after only a week in a keyboarding class. Now she encourages other plus 50 adults to turn to community colleges for help.

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Getting Up to Speed is Possible Without the Constraints of a Lengthy Degree Program, Says Plus 50 Student
When she needed to go back to work following a family crisis, Linda Soares turned to community college to quickly tune up her skills in medical terminology, office administration, and computers. She enjoyed the self-paced style of learning at the community college and is already on the job market.

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Long-time Community Volunteer Turns to Community College to Add Job Skills to her Resume
Even with 45 years of experience volunteering under her belt, Marty Koontz, at 67 years young, turned to community college to add valuable job skills to her resume. Look out world, because a new Insurance Representative is on her way, and she's determined to succeed.

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STC alum sees symmetry in life with AARP career
Edinburgh High School graduate Aurora Casas was already a member of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) when she started her college career at South Texas College. At the age of 58, she didn't let a simple number keep her from her achieving her goals.

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Columbia State Experience Conferred More Than A Degree
Loretta Washburn attended Columbia State's first night classes in Lawrenceburg and earned her Associate's Degree in 1976, when she was 58. Now 91, she looks back on the experience as one that not only helped in her work as a Title I teaching assistant, but continues to have a great impact on her life.

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