When Joann Sirles retired after a successful career at Amtrak, she hadn’t planned on finding a whole new career – but that is just what happened at Olive-Harvey College.

Originally from Philadelphia, Joann left high school before she was able to graduate because she had to go to work. After a job in retail and another in insurance, she started at Amtrak in 1974, a job she continued until she retired in 2012.

“Earning my high school diploma was something that I always promised myself I would do. Once I retired, I had some time to finally do it,” she explained.

Her research led her to classes at Olive-Harvey – something she wasn’t sure she wanted, but was ultimately the right choice. She first thought that she would prefer online classes, but tried in-person classes and loved it – she was able to meet new people and get the real classroom experience. She started classes in the fall of 2019, but personal reasons forced her to stop halfway through. But Joann was determined, and she started again in the spring of 2019. That’s when the staff at Olive-Harvey’s Adult Education Office asked her if she would be interested in the BNA Career Bridge program, which would help her earn her Basic Nursing Certificate.

“It hadn’t occurred to me that I might be qualified to be a part of that program, but I was doing well in my classes. Ms. Baker, the transition specialist, asked me what I had to lose by trying – and that convinced me,” Joann said.

Joann ended up loving her classes and starting yet another successful career in the healthcare industry. She completed her BNA classes, and is set to take the exam for her state certification, which has been paused due to the pandemic. She already has a job as a home healthcare worker while she waits.

She is now considering her next steps and is thinking about pursuing the next nursing certificate to become a Licensed Practical Nurse.

“I didn’t plan to start a second career, getting my GED was just something I wanted to do for myself. Now look where I am!”

Ready to discover how you can earn your high school diploma while gaining education for a career? Discover the Career Bridge program at City Colleges of Chicago here.

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