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Linking parents to opportunities

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Erwin Elementary sponsors workshops to help unemployed parents

By Jesef Williams

Chris Jacobs didn’t foresee the day when he’d be looking for a job at this stage of his life.

The Lancaster native had worked in circulation at The State newspaper in Columbia for 13 years before being laid off in March because of company downsizing.

Jacobs still hasn’t found another job and is now looking for assistance to improve his chances of getting hired.

He said Erwin Elementary School is lending a helping hand.

Jacobs was among a group of parents who attended a recent workshop session at the school that provided them with valuable information for those looking for work.

The program, Bridge to Success, was organized by school guidance counselor Pat McFadden and fourth-grade teacher Donna Wilder.

“I’m hoping to pick up some good info and leads in terms of getting another degree,” said Jacobs, whose daughter, Aliah, is a fourth-grader at Erwin Elementary. “The job market’s been looking bleak.”

Ken Cole, financial aid director at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster, talked about loans, grants and other funding options for those looking to go back to school at the Dec. 10 workshop. After his presentation, Brenda Odom, program manager at York Technical College, shed light on skills and attributes needed to vie for certain types of jobs.

Valuable info

Cole walked the group of parents through the process of applying for financial aid and mentioned how income has a huge role in determining how much money an applicant can receive.

He said www.fafsa.gov and www.schoolsoup.com are two good Web sites to visit for more information.

Cole discussed the need to balance school, work and personal life if you’re planning to go back to school. You should keep in mind that for every three hours you’re in class per week, expect about six hours of homework to complete, he said.

“Plan accordingly to what you can fit into your schedule, and make that decision before you start the class,” Cole said.

Odom said employers consider a person’s knowledge, skills and abilities when determining whether they should be hired or not.

Know you’re not cut out for every line of work, Odom said. It’s also important to realize what your strengths are, she said.

She mentioned the Myers-Briggs personality test that some employers use to gauge a person’s strengths and weaknesses.

“We all have abilities and attributes – things that are special to us,” Odom said. “Tapping into them is important.”

She also left the group of nearly 30 parents with three questions to ponder:

“Where am I now?”

“Where do I want to be?”

“How do I get there?”

Ongoing series

Thursday’s session was the first in a series of five workshops planned at Erwin Elementary. The next one is Jan. 7.

Other workshops will touch on resume writing and Internet job searches, and will feature personnel from the S.C. Employment Security Commission, the Lancaster County School District and Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte.

Wilder said she hopes workshop attendees will benefit from the information.

“There are so many unemployed parents at our school,” Wilder said. “Here they can meet in a comfortable setting and maybe they can get some information that will help them.”

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or (803) 283-1152