Determined to provide for her children, Sandra finds reinvention through Per Scholas
After 13 years at home with her children, Sandra Larson was amidst a divorce. Prior to staying at home with her children, Sandra worked as a dental assistant, but re-entering the dental field was impossible with the pricey certification courses needed. Without any job and living on temporary support, Sandra was without a way to provide for herself or her children going forward on her own.
“I found myself in the middle of a divorce with no job skills. I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
Trying to get back on her feet, Sandra sent out dozens of job applications for any job she thought she may qualify. She only received two responses. She took a job as a part time receptionist. “I needed to start working fast,” she says. “I needed to be on my own and self-sufficient.”
After about a year, Sandra once again got some bad news: she was being laid off. Her job had been replaced by an automated system. It was this experience that made Sandra start re-thinking her career. “I was replaced by technology [as a receptionist]. It made me realize that no matter what business you’re in, everyone needs technology. I realized how relevant technology is,” she says.
Shortly after she was laid off, Sandra was at a local restaurant playing pool with friends. She struck up a conversation with fellow pool player, Bronson Woodroffe. A graduate himself, Bronson told Sandra of a local free technology school called Per Scholas. “It was fate,” she describes. She called Per Scholas the next day to enroll. She knew that the technology field could provide her and her family the life they wanted.
As a Per Scholas student, Sandra thrived. She loved her tech instructor, James Maio, whom she says made class fun and enjoyable. Sandra also took a lot away from the Career Development training, which teaches important communication skills. She says that she dreaded the 60-second pitch, a portion of the course that prepares for interviews by developing a student’s elevator pitch. The scary part? All students must present their pitch in front of the class. But, by the end though, she was a 60-second pitch pro. She says, “Before the class, I was very shy speaking in a group setting. I had never taken a class like that before. It was very helpful.”
Most of all, Sandra learned that reinvention is possible at any stage in life. “My instructors both gave me skills that would help me move forward. I learned that there are so many opportunities out there.”
After graduation, Sandra interviewed with the Columbus Medical Association. It was the first company she interviewed with and she got the job. Her manager shared with her that they hired her even though they had more qualified candidates because they valued her professionalism and positive attitude, and felt she would be a good fit for their company. “Career Development training made all the difference for me,” she says.
Sandra loves her new job as an Information Systems Associate. The job provides a helpful learning environment and the chance to work closely with her superiors.
And, also as rewarding, this job represents stability. “I came in at an entry-level IT job and am making significantly more than I was as a receptionist,” she says. “I make enough now to pay my bills.”
Her kids have noticed a big change in her too. “They used to tease me because I couldn’t use an iPhone. Now they are asking me for help with their electronics.” Sandra is proud that she is now able to independently provide for her two teenagers. “I don’t want them to worry about having a roof over their head. I want them to have a normal life. I can now provide them what they need.”
Sandra visits the Per Scholas Columbus office often, maintaining strong connection to her instructors and the staff. It’s in these interactions that Sandra’s transformation has come full circle. When visiting, Sandra speaks to current students and encourages them to work hard and the opportunity Per Scholas is providing them will pay off. She says proudly, “I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot over the past year.”
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