- Associated Press - Monday, December 22, 2014

STEVENS POINT, Wis. (AP) - Glenda Calder said the first day she walked into Mid-State Technical College was the scariest one of her life, and in the days afterward she sometimes confided to husband Glenn that she might have gotten in over her head.

After five years working in the accounts payable department at Joerns Healthcare, Calder found herself jobless after the company announced in January 2012 it was moving 146 jobs from its Stevens Point facility to Texas, Arkansas and Mexico as a cost-cutting measure. Calder, 60, of Whiting hadn’t been in a school setting for decades - she quit school in the ninth grade, got married at 16, and earned her GED at 32. But she got a chance to return through the Trade Adjustment Act, a federal assistance program for U.S. workers dislocated by foreign trade, Stevens Point Journal Media (http://spjour.nl/1C23Fz6 ) reported.

Calder said that after those first few perilous weeks she began to find her footing, meet friends and become more comfortable with school. She became involved with Campus Activities & Student Senate, a group that promotes understanding between faculty and students, makes decision on the use of student activity fees, and encourages students to get involved with social activities. Calder even met with state legislators as a governor representing MSTC’s four campuses through Wisconsin Student Government.

On Thursday, Calder was among 167 graduates who were recognized during commencement ceremonies across central Wisconsin. Calder graduated with an associate degree in business management, with a specialization in health care management, and with a cumulative grade point average of around 3.9.

She said she doesn’t have a definite career plan, but noted that she managed dental offices when she previously lived in California, Utah and Nevada. Calder said she would be open to returning to the health care field, but feels prepared to take on whatever opportunity is in front of her. She’s also proud to be able to show her eight grandchildren, ranging from 8 to 23 years old, that she was able to succeed after the setback of losing her job.

“My focus has always been on moving forward, and I want to be a good example of that,” Calder said. “I expected that I was going to retire at Joerns, but that didn’t happen so I had to move forward.”

Calder said she received support from family, friends and even members of her church whom she regularly asked to pray for her in some of her more difficult school subjects such as math. She also connected with people like Chuck Peden, who was also a returning student studying business management. The two have taken classes together, worked in Campus Activities & Student Senate together, and today Calder jokingly refers to him as “my school husband.”

“It makes school a lot easier when you can connect with other people who are having the same experience,” said Peden, 49, of Plover.

Calder said she also enjoyed the opportunity to meet and connect with younger students, saying the experience gave her a fresh perspective as she heads back into the workforce.

“I think it was beneficial for everyone. As someone who had more life experience I could give advice, and they taught me a lot about things like technology,” Calder said. “I wouldn’t have had that if I didn’t come back to school, and it was one of the many things that has really made this one of the best experiences of my life.”

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Information from: Stevens Point Journal Media, http://www.stevenspointjournal.com

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