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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 Plus 50 Student Lives in the Dorm, Earns a Nursing Degree
Corrine Ternes, a plus 50 nursing student at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake, North Dakota, shares about her experiences going back to school to earn a degree later in life. She discusses living in the dormitory as a nontraditional student, what college life is like for her, and what led her to pursue a career in nursing. 

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A Pharmacy Technician Speaks About Opportunities
Curt Bielski, pharmacy technician student at Ivy Tech Community College discusses his coursework in this video."I felt going into this, being a baby boomer in this present economy, I was looking for something viable, short-term, to be able to get back into the job market and have a gainful employed job," said Bielski.

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From Laid Off to an Aerospace Composite Technician Program
Michael Wright, a plus 50 student at Clover Park Technical College, talks about the  aerospace composite technician program and his experiences going back to college at age 50 plus. It's a six month course with three months of mathematics instruction and three months with hands-on training.

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Going to School is a Sharp Turn, But Learning is for Life
Plus 50 student Juanita Blackshear discusses why she likes attending St. Louis Community College. An instructor inspired Juanita to consider becoming a life coach and is helping her think through what that career path entails. 

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The Plus 50 Program Was the Catalyst For Me
"I really appreciated the Plus 50 program, it was the catalyst for me to get out of the state of confusion I was in," said John Hanson, in this video from St. Louis Community College. After he retired from his job and left a successful career, Hanson was trying to figure out what to do next in the next chapter of his life.

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Plus 50 Student Soars at Cape Cod Community College
For plus 50 student Neil Tanger, Cape Cod Community College is a friendly and accessible place. He says that the instructors really care about student learning.

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A Plus 50 Student Gains Confidence
Going back to school at age 50 plus may seem daunting. But Cape Cod Community College student Elizabeth Alexander says she likes the fact that she found "a community" when she arrived at community college.

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A Second Career in Nursing at Cape Cod Community College
First year nursing student Thomas Trego says that going back to school at age 50 plus was easy. He's planning a second career in nursing, and says, "If you are thinking about changing career directions, this is a great opportunity to do it."

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Excited About Learning at Clark College
Plus 50 student Gloria Webster talks about taking a class at Clark College and how excited she is about learning. She enjoys that the college is smaller and conveniently located. She said she would recommend it to anyone who wants to continue their education.

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Re-Inventing a Career at Plus 50
Gale Harral talks about taking classes at Clark College and pursuing an associate's degree in applied science. Harral is training to become a medical office specialist and says that she likes working in an office environment. She previously worked as a supervisor for 17 years in manufacturing and is re-inventing her career because she needs to continue working for an additional 10-20 years.

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Computer Training for a New Job
Ken McDougall says his experience at Community Colleges of Spokane now as a plus 50 adult, is very different from his schooling earlier in life. He likes the computer training courses he's taking at the college because they are self-paced.

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Unemployed: Getting Re-Trained
Plus 50 student Karin Ball talks about attending the Community Colleges of Spokane. When Ball lost her job during the economic recession, she went to the unemployment office and was referred to an AARP program that partners with the college to help re-train older workers.

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Computer Skills Training at Community College
Plus 50 student Patt Walker says she enjoyed meeting people her age and younger people too, when she attended courses at the Community Colleges of Spokane. She said her instructors were "amazing" and answered her questions, even if she had to ask them more than once. Walker took courses in Quick Books and Microsoft Office to get up to date. She is hoping to find employment with the new skills she has gained in a short time at the college.

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Going to Community College in Spokane
Plus 50 student Allyson Morris talks about attending the Community Colleges of Spokane and says her instructors are very helpful. She said that even though everyone in the plus 50 computer course is at different comprehension levels, the atmosphere in the classroom encourages everyone to grow and learn.

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Grateful to be a Student at Joliet Junior College
Don Nurczyk likes attending Joliet Junior College, where is pursuing a certificate in air conditioning and heating. He is also taking courses in Microsoft Office. He's found getting back into "studying mode" challenging, but it's not impossible.

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You Never Stop Learning at Clark College
Diane Johnston went back to school to learn about computer programming and how to be a network administrator. The flexibility of the community college schedule helped her fit her courses into her busy schedule alongside a full-time job.

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Starting a New Job After Retirement
Jack Hansen works as an interpretive guide and law enforcement worker for the National Park Service. The National Park Service has a partnership with Western Dakota Technical Institute training plus 50 adults to become interpretive guides and park rangers.

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Prepare for Your Next Job
Terry Bloome knows unemployment is coming his way, so he decided to upgrade his skills now so he's ready to get a new job. He enjoys taking computer courses at Joliet Junior College and says that other students and instructors have helped him feel comfortable at college.

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Re-Inventing YourSelf After Downsizing
Susan Martin came to Joliet Junior College after getting downsized from her job in real estate. Initially, she worked toward a human resource certification. She was initially nervous about going back to school, but she found an accepting environment at the college.

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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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