Job program vaults candidates over fear barriers to new lives

September 23, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Fear almost stopped Dianne Jones from reaching her goals.

But with the help of the Carroll County Job Training Partnership Administration, she earned her General Education Development certificate, graduated from Notre Dame's paralegal program, started her own business and is looking for work as a paralegal.

Ms. Jones of Westminster and four other Carroll County residents were honored last week with an Award for Excellence from the Mid-Maryland Private Industry Council.

"It's stupid how we limit ourselves with fear," Ms. Jones said. "Those things aren't really real, but they are to ourselves because we make them that way."

Her journey in the JTPA program began two years ago when her husband's contracting business, E. M. Jenkins Inc., became a victim of the soft economy. The company closed, and Ms. Jones, 37, found herself needing a job.

"I had been a hairdresser doing shows, but I didn't want to go back to that because it took so much time away from the children," said Ms. Jones. She had worked as a free-lance artist for Framessi of New York demonstrating new hair styles at cosmetology conferences along the East Coast.

"The [cosmetology] shows took anywhere from three days to two weeks," Ms. Jones said. "I want to stay close to home. I enjoy being a mother better than anything else."

Ms. Jones, born in Friar's Hill, W.Va., and her siblings were placed in foster care when she was 12. Eighteen months later, after her mother moved to Maryland, the family was reunited. But Ms. Jones only stayed around a short while.

"I left home before I was 14," she said. "Mom lived in Brooklyn, and that was a little rough for me, so I lived in the Severna Park-Annapolis area."

She said she entered the Augusta School of Cosmetology in Severna Park when she dropped out of high school at 16. She finished her cosmetology classes at 18, worked for a while and became a homemaker for eight years when she married her first husband.

Ms. Jones moved to Carroll County in 1988 with her present husband. She trained as an estimator with him because she wanted to spend more time with her five children. Her eldest, Scott Dallas Lewis, is 22; her youngest, Joseph Richard Jones, is 11.

After scoring high in placement tests at Carroll Community College, and getting As and B+s in math and English, Ms. Jones' goal of entering the legal field seemed possible. But first she had to pass her GED. Carroll Community College wouldn't give her college credit for her classes without it.

"I was horrified," she said. "I felt like a second-grader that had been sent to the principal's office."

The exam preparation courses bored her, so the adult education staff allowed her to work with computers. She passed the GED with flying colors.

"I kept waiting for the hard stuff to come up, and it never did," Ms. Jones said.

Then Carroll County's JTPA office scraped up the $4,000 for her to take paralegal classes at Notre Dame. She also took typing and computer classes to give her an edge in the job market.

As she neared completion of the credits for her degree, Ms. Jones created Feminine Forte Contracting Inc., a small company that will contract for any small construction job. Feminine Forte currently is focusing on underground storage tank service and removal.

"The [Environmental Protection Agency] has passed laws that say any tank 20 years old or older must be serviced or removed," Ms. Jones said. "Most of these were constructed to decay in 20 or 30 years."

She said her company can bring together all the people necessary, from federal inspectors to excavators, to remove a tank. The workers are subcontractors.

"When we started out, I was in the field digging," she said. "Then I got hit in the mouth with a 3-inch pipe, and I decided maybe it was better for me to stay in the office and do the marketing."

Ms. Jones said she plans to work part-time as a paralegal while she works full-time getting her company going.

She said she couldn't have done it without JTPA.

"Welfare to me feels like a humiliation," she said. "I was glad to find a way to retrain myself and still have enough time to raise my children and do what I had to do.

"I thank God that Glenda [Lehmberg, her counselor] was there for me. She never pushed me, but gently pulled me to what I needed to do."

Other Private Industry Council award winners from Carroll County were:

* Darlene Grammer, who was forced to change jobs when her jTC doctor told her that her work conditions could cause her to become blind. Ms. Grammer is now a full-time nurse's aide at Carroll County General Hospital.

* Vessa Lawrence, who had been out of the work force for a while when she attended a Career Planning Workshop and eventually took a course in computers. Ms. Lawrence entered the JTPA program for people 55 and older who need training and job search assistance. She is a data match machine operator with a credit card manufacturing company.

* Shirley Starner, who was living in a shelter with her two children when she entered JTPA's Project Independence program in 1991. Ms. Starner works for the Carroll County Human Resources Department and is financially independent.

* Darin Lowe, who was considering dropping out of high school when he entered the JTPA Maryland's Tomorrow program. Mr. Lowe, who made the honor roll, has completed high school and is working with the Natural Resources Police cadet program.

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