Some people are inclined to believe everything happens for a reason. Claudette Collins, a participant of the Power of Work program, is one of those people.
A 49-year-old Lexington native, Claudette was introduced to one of her many reasons while working toward a business administration degree at Kentucky State University, when she gave birth to her daughter. She was already working 40 hours a week while taking on an 18-hour class load. But she still provided for her newborn and graduated in three years.
She went on to work in human resources for the commonwealth of Kentucky, while living in Louisville, for more than 16 years but, while dealing with the passing of her mother and grandfather in a short span, chose to go back to school and change careers in 2018. She wanted to work in logistics as a data analyst.
She then was faced with several roadblocks. As she prepared to go back to school, her financial aid was blocked due to past issues. She kept applying while working at UPS but was placed on the factory line, not a position she was qualified for in the logistics hub. And then, she was offered another job but was told it was no longer available after she put in her two-week notice with UPS.
“That was like a slap in the face,” she said.
But it all happened for good reason.
The latest employer to slight Claudette turned out to be located in the same building as the office for Power of Work, which is a KentuckianaWorks program operated by Goodwill Industries of Kentucky. She noticed the sign on her way out and looked into it.
Shortly after, she was introduced to her career coach, Lela Watson, who began working to match her with an employer. Claudette said Lela, in addition to helping search for employment and volunteer opportunities, has been a calming presence during these tough times.
“Miss Lela was one of the best things to ever happen to me,” Claudette said. “She’s kept in touch with me. She keeps me balanced as far as trying to find jobs I’ve been trying to look for. … She’s a very compassionate and caring person, and it reflects in her attitude. She’s always making sure we’re OK, whenever she gets a chance. And I greatly appreciate that, considering these economic times. People need someone to give them that continued support.
“And regardless of your career, regardless of your skillset, it’s always good to have an organization that can still enhance your skillset, because you never know. I’ve been fortunate.”
Claudette’s relationship with Lela turned out to change her life in all the right ways. One of Lela’s contacts at Humana reached out to her about a pilot program for data analysts and wanted to know if she had any recommendations for applicants from Power of Work. And Lela knew just the person.
Claudette was one of 23 people chosen from a large pool of applicants. Power of Work helped with funding for the program, and she “hit the ground running,” she said.
“(Lela) has been so supportive and encouraging in my endeavors,” she said. “I wanted to give not only her but Goodwill credit where credit is due. I appreciate Goodwill believing in me and taking the chance with me as far as giving me this opportunity to do the data analyst immersive program. That’s a lot. That was a huge investment in me. I’m eternally grateful.”
Claudette completed the intense, five-day-per-week program in 90 days – while working at Walmart through her weekends, taking a page out of her college schedule. She worked some days from 4 a.m. to 1 p.m.
In June of 2021, Claudette will begin working as a full-time data analyst at Humana, where she went through the program.
“Can’t is not in our vocabulary,” she said. “I have a soon to be 29-year-old daughter, and that was the word you always don’t say in the house. You don’t say can’t, because anything can be done. Keep trying, if it doesn’t work this way, you try another way.”
Claudette’s toughness through her struggles has been the perfect example for her daughter, who she said came into the world with “two strikes” as an African American female. She now has a degree from Emery University, is an EMT and works as a human intelligence officer for the Army. To boot, she is also currently attending Harvard Medical School.
Claudette said they motivate each other as “sheroes.”
“Be strong,” Claudette said, “because you never know who you’re inspiring.”