“You can do it too—don’t ever give up!”
Submitted by: Jamie Arndt, Forward Service Corporation’s WIA Adult Program Case Manager
Download a printable version of Lisa Pionek’s Success Story.
At the age of 45, Lisa Pionek made the brave decision to return to school to earn a degree. She had been looking for work for a couple years and had only been able to find temporary positions. She was tired of living pay check to pay check and competing with high school students who had updated skills.
Lisa contacted the Workforce Development Board for information on returning to school and possible resources. NCWWDB referred her to the WIA Adult program where she met Forward Service Corporation’s case manager, Jamie Arndt.
Lisa told Jamie that she had a strong interest in the Renewable Energy program offered at Mid-State Technical College. Jamie asked Lisa to complete a career assessment to determine if the program would be a good fit. Lisa’s assessment results indicated that she would be a perfect fit for the Renewable Energy program. Jamie and Lisa developed a success plan to reach her goals.
While in school, Lisa encountered numerous struggles and setbacks. WIA’s tuition and mileage assistance helped, but she still had major sacrifices to make in order to make ends meet. Lisa lived in a friend’s garage with nothing but an old couch for a bed. There was no heat, no stove, and no bathroom. Little by little, she was able to make it more livable. She added a bed and eventually installed a furnace and a water heater. She used a dual-burner hot plate to cook her meals. Basically, she lived at MSTC during the day and the library each night. In addition to her living situation, Lisa had major car issues. Jamie worked with the Wheels to Work program to get her car repaired.
During some of the toughest times Lisa thought about giving up, but she knew she had to push through to meet her goals. Lisa managed to do just that, plus some!
In August of 2011, Lisa earned her certificate in Bio-refinery. In the summer of 2012, she earned her CDL and Heavy Equipment Certification. In May of 2013, Lisa graduated (with honors) receiving her associate degree in Renewable Energy. In April of 2014, she obtained a full-time position with WE Energies in Wisconsin Rapids. Lisa is very proud of her success, and absolutely loves her job!
Jamie remembers a time when Lisa came to her in tears because she only had $2.00 to put in her gas tank—just enough to make it to the Job Center and to MSTC. It brings tears to Jamie’s eyes to think of where Lisa started and now to see her becoming self-sufficient.
Lisa says, “I would not be where I am today without the help of the WIA Adult program and the support of Jamie Arndt. She was always there when I needed to talk to someone and she kept me motivated. She was not just a case manager, but a mentor as well. It is so nice to know that I can still contact her whenever I need that support. I know she will always be there to listen.” Lisa adds, “I am happy to share my story with the hopes that it will encourage others and let them know that they, with hard work and dedication, can do it too! Don’t ever give up!”