Getting back into the habit of going to school can be challenging for any adult especially when it involves fitting time for class into an already hectic schedule filled with family and work responsibilities. Time and convenience are often a barrier to entry for those considering going back to school. Instructor Melodie Wilson sat down with one of her former students, Tomas, to talk to him about what it was like to attend training while experiencing homelessness and any tips he had for anyone trying to figure out how to go back to school as an adult.
Ms. Melodie (MM): I am so happy you're willing to share your story with other people who may be looking at our program. I know that when you joined my class you were so determined and I knew your circumstances were not ideal but I could sense the tenacity that you wanted to succeed. You had some issues connecting and staying connected but you just persevered throughout it all. What is it that made you need computer classes.
Tomas (T): I think just trying to re-establish myself and make myself marketable. I was homeless for a little over a year and didn't want to stay stuck in that mentality or environment. I come from a background where you know I've always had to be self-sustaining.I've pretty much been one of the those types of individuals that has taken everything upon himself—whether I succeed or fail it's me. That's just how I've been since high school I joined the military and did that for a while. I had my own business for quite some time and then hard times fell and I found myself homeless.
MM: You had success in a business, you were a veteran. You have business experience that was positive but we never know that that's gonna stay. Sometimes those of us who are secure in our jobs—we think we're secure but things can change overnight and COVID was a good example of people being in a stable environment and then all of a sudden their jobs were gone.
MM: So what classes are you in right now?
T: Right now, I'm doing another course with New Horizons. The one I did with you was Office Admin and I saw that as a foundational course. I'm looking at a career in business engineering or business analytics. I'm in a New Horizons called Process Management. They're taking me through Lean Six Sigma, Process Management, Agile, Kaizen, just a number of different areas of process management.
MM: Tell me about going back to school, I know you were struggling so much with some networking issues and things like that, but what were some things as far as coming into the cohorts. I do have students that come in and they don't have your determination and they end up stepping back and saying "this is too much, I just can't do it" but what were some things that kept you going, that helped you get back into the swing of being in school?
T: I think when the opportunity arose to do the New Horizons class, it was just exciting for me coming from that homeless environment. It was tough too because initially, I had no computer. I had access to a computer area at the Salvation Army where I was being housed but they had their specific hours and their internet connection wasn't so great. So I actually went out and applied for a library card so I would have access to all of the public libraries in Las Vegas. In some instances, during class, the internet would go down and I would have to run off to another area to see if I could get a better connection. It was a struggle but it worked out. I think I missed very little.
Just not giving up again to all those out there—where there's a will there's a way. I was always looking at "okay, if Plan A doesn't work out, what's Plan B, C, and D."
I think the students kept a smile on my face because there were those days when there were fights at the Salvation Army or just things that happened. I had to walk for blocks to get to a bus and there were days when I was either down or angry, but then going into class, sharing the stories that the students had, I was reminded that we all go through struggles. Maybe they're different struggles but we all still have our individual struggles and they lifted me up and I was grateful for that. That's why I'm doing this. I want others to hear the story and go "well he's 61 and he was homeless, I've got a good job and I've got a home and maybe I will take an additional course."
Going Back to School as an Adult
MM: What advice would you give to somebody who is older and who is going back to school?
T: I would say choose something that's going to interest you. Whether it's a change completely or not, do what you enjoy because the school is going to have to be something that you put your time and effort into. That's why I say I picked and chose based on where I want to be and what I want to do. I'm at that age too where I've kind of tried this, that, the other. For those who are looking at going to school—choose something you're interested in or that challenges you. Whether they're an old-timer like me or someone who's young and still not sure.
MM: What would be some practical tips for getting the most out of a class if you're going back to school because as you saw a lot of the people we had in our class were slightly older, they were going back to school or they were trying to expand something that would help their career but a lot of them hadn't been in school in a long time and school has changed somewhat. Technology classes are different so what practical skills made you successful because you did very well in my class.
T: Thank you. I think the important stuff is what you covered. You talked about how we should set aside a certain time for homework. Work it out with our partners, especially if we have kids so that your partner is sharing in their care and allowing you some time to attend class. It's a lot about not being afraid to ask, that's where a lot of my learning came in. It wasn't necessarily digging into the homework, it was when I'm stuck or confused, reaching out to teachers or reaching out to other students. I did get some emails and I would shoot an email to a student and have them look through my stuff but I think primarily it was finding a comfortable spot. Mine was always a library.
MM: Well Tomas, I thank you for sharing your story. I'm excited to see how it helps other people and definitely excited to see where you land.
T: I mean I've got probably eight or nine certificates and I'm building a website and doing this, that, the other and I've never built a website. So if I can do it—and I know I've heard that story before, "well if I can do it, you can." But seriously there's a lot of people that have a lot of things going for them. They're just afraid or not sure where the opportunities lie. If i can help direct or help inspire just with a little bit of my time and my story, I hope I can.
Questions to Consider
What's stopping you from pursuing training? If you need a sense of direction, you can think about other careers that would match your skills and abilities.
Education is the key to career advancement, but you don’t need a college degree or MBA to get ahead. IT training and career training are efficient and proven ways to advance your career and acquire new job skills. Ask these questions when considering career training programs.