Learning Gets Better With Age Award Recipient

Crystal was in the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) operated by Interfaith Older Adult Programs in Milwaukee, WI. She shared that when she first came to SCSEP at Interfaith, her self-esteem was quite low. “I didn’t think I could do anything.”

Barbara Smith, then SCSEP Program Director, encouraged Crystal. “[Crystal] motivated me and kept saying, “There is nothing you can’t do, and you are never too old to start something new.” She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.”

Before coming to SCSEP, Crystal worked in factories. She worked in a meat factory making hamburgers for many years and then in another factory making medical supplies such as booties and catheters. Crystal described the work as “very strenuous and fast-paced.” After many years and with the work taking a toll on her health, Crystal determined “I needed a career change.”

When asked about her decision to get her high school equivalency by taking the HiSET exam, Crystal shared that getting the equivalency was something she thought about for a long time. “It was a lifelong dream, but I was afraid of taking that first step.” But with the support of her SCSEP project director and her increased self-esteem from being on SCSEP, Crystal felt ready. I knew nothing about office work before SCSEP. But once I started learning again, everything changed for me.” She enrolled in Milwaukee Achievers. “I was the oldest person in my class,” Crystal shared with a laugh. Within four (4) months, she was ready and took the HiSET exam. Crystal achieved her high school equivalency at 57.

Armed with her high school equivalency, Crystal left SCSEP for an unsubsidized job. “I was able to get a job and with my high school equivalency, make more money.” Crystal is now employed with Interfaith Older Adult Programs. She is a scheduler with Personal Care Plus, Interfaith’s service that provides workers to provide help to assist with housekeeping, meal preparation, personal care needs and wellness checks for seniors who need some extra help to remain living independently at home.

“SCSEP worked for me. Never be afraid to take that first big step.”