College Articles

New Dreams, New Beginnings, New Career

Continuing Education at Richland Prepares This Baby Boomer for New Possibilities

by Alicia Wanek

Many empty nesters are looking to try something different as they enter another season of life. With a new country, a new language, and with her sights on a completely new career, Lidia Flores-Ramirez is taking “fresh start” to another level altogether. At age 57, Lidia is seizing the opportunities at Richland College as she embarks on a new journey.

A native of Mexico, Lidia moved to the U.S. seven years ago. She joined her daughter in McAllen, Texas before relocating to Austin. While in Austin, she began taking English classes at a local community college, and she saw the value in extending her education, though she wasn’t quite sure how her new life in America would play out. In Mexico she had worked as a nurse in a hospital and in community outreach in rural areas.  She’d loved her job, but she didn’t miss the stress and the long hours. She wondered, “What do I want to do now?”

“When I was a teenager, I often took care of my nieces and nephews,” Lidia says.  “I always loved children and knew I wanted to work with kids someday, maybe as a preschool educator.” Remembering the great experience she’d had with the community college in Austin, after yet another move to Dallas, she reached out to a counselor at Richland College who directed her to the early childcare associate program there. This program consists of two core courses and four support courses for a total of 204 instructional hours in classes from CPR to food safety and nutrition to child guidance and behavioral issues. She started with just one course last spring and continues to work toward her certification as a Child Development Associate.

Ensuring empty nesters and other non-traditional students have the tools they need as they start on a new path is a goal for the staff and administration at Richland. Gary Hensler, Dean of Continuing Education and Workforce Training, says, “Richland College Continuing Education is laser-focused on developing relevant coursework for our community. Lidia is a great example of how individuals can begin anew, regardless of where they are in their life journey. Our goal is for every student we assist to inspire others into making positive life changes.” Lidia has been so thankful for the support of her instructors and reports, “They are very patient with me and my English. They understand my difficulty and work with me. They really help me and encourage me.”

Lidia has already started some part-time work at a local church on Sundays, and she’s been able to apply what she’s learning when she keeps her grandchildren while her daughter is at work. “I’ve gotten more understanding and knowledge for my own family,” she says. When her grandson starts at a local preschool in the fall, Lidia will be ready to look for a position with her new skill-set. Her daughter Dannely could not be more proud of her mom, but more importantly, Lidia is proud of herself for taking the first steps to prepare for the next exciting phase in her life.

Grandmother and soon-to-be college graduate, Lidia Flores-Ramirez is pictured top with her grandchildren Emilia and Marcelo. When her grandson starts at a local preschool in the fall, Lidia will be ready to look for a position with her new skill-set thanks to the early childcare associate program at Richland College.

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