After working for the same company for nearly 11 years and surviving two rounds of layoffs, Monica Belton thought her position as supervisor at Sapa Extrusions, an aluminum company in Morris, was safe.
But that all changed one day in October 2009, when she was asked to join her fellow coworkers in a conference room. It was at that moment she knew there would be one more round of lay offs and she too was losing her job.
But what came as a shock, says Belton, was really a blessing in disguise. Sapa introduced its employees to a number of employment services, one of which was the Workforce Development and Grundy Workforce Services at JJC.
“I first enrolled at JJC right out of high school, but like what happens with a lot of people, life got in the way and my priorities changed, so I took a position at a factory,” Belton says. “But I always wanted to go back to school and this was my chance.”
Two decades later, Belton has been given the opportunity to earn the degree she set out to receive so many years earlier. In 2010, she entered the Workforce Services program at JJC and enrolled in classes.
Monica talks about her success: View Video
“I’ve been given a second chance,” says the 38 year old. “Because of the [WIA] fund I’m able to take classes for free. I said to myself, ‘well I have to go back and get a degree, it’s free!’”
Belton receives funding through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which provides financial assistance to individuals looking to re-enter the workforce by earning a certificate or an associate degree.
She is currently a part-time student and after taking her last class this summer, she will her receive her associate degree.
“Education is the key to moving forward,” Belton says. “I’ve always wanted a degree—there’s always room for improvement. Having a degree will help push my career in the right direction and help me advance in the company.”
Belton is also working full time as an operator at International Titanium Powder in Ottawa, a position she accredits to the resume help she received at JJC.
“My counselor helped me update my resume and make it more appealing to employers,” she says. “Since she helped me tweak it, I’ve been getting all kinds of calls from companies, I’ve even had to turn down companies!”
In an economy that still struggles to pull itself out of a recession, she says she couldn’t be more grateful to have both a career and the opportunity to return to college and earn a degree.
“It has been really tough trying to balance work, class and having a family, but I have to finish. I push myself every day. My husband just graduated from Robert Morris. If he can do it so can I,” says Belton. “This has been such a great opportunity, and though it’s been a struggle it will be worth it in the end.”