September 9, 2010 in Washington Voices

Change Point helps with move into workforce

By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photo

Change Point helps primarily women who have been out of the work force transition into the workplace. Kathy Dyer turned to the program after she suffered a stroke.
(Full-size photo)

Kids with Spider-man backpacks and Hello Kitty lunchboxes aren’t the only ones going back to school this month. Fifty-year-old Kathy Dyer is eager to resume her studies at Spokane Falls Community College – something she once thought impossible.

In 2007, while living in Florida, the mother of four suffered a stroke. “It took me months to get back to as normal as I could get,” she said. As she struggled to recover, her husband announced he wanted a divorce. “I didn’t know where to go. My life had been turned inside out, and I didn’t know what to do.”

Dyer’s oldest daughter urged her to move to Spokane, so she did. Dyer said, “I didn’t want to be a burden, but I’d been a stay-home mom my whole life. I didn’t have a college degree or any work experience.”

Then she heard about Change Point (formerly the Displaced Homemakers program). Operated through the Institute for Extended Learning, Change Point offers an introduction to basic computer skills, career exploration opportunities and life skills education. Since 1979, the program has served the needs of transitioning homemakers through personal counseling, one-day workshops and pre-employment training programs such as résumé building, cover letters and interview training. All of the classes and counseling services are free of charge.

“I didn’t have much self-esteem left,” said Dyer. “I’m starting my life over again and that’s scary!”

But her confidence began to grow along with her computer skills and communication abilities. “I’d always dreamed of going back to college,” she said. So after, completing the Change Point program she enrolled at Spokane Falls Community College and has one year to complete before she’s awarded her Associate of Applied Science degree.

Likewise, Teresa Yeager, 54, is on her way to a college degree, thanks to Change Point. A few years ago, Yeager had a good job, a home, and a loving partner. “But when my partner died, things just fell apart for me,” she said.

Yeager was diagnosed with a mental illness and eventually lost her job. “I ended up losing my home, and at that time it seemed like the end of the world,” she said. “I went to (Spokane) Mental Health, trying to get my life back to half-way functional and someone mentioned Change Point. I didn’t think I qualified because I’d worked and held a job.”

When she found out she did indeed qualify for the program, she quickly signed up. The goal of the program is to ensure graduates are ready to either enter the work force or pursue a college degree.

“I chose college, because I knew I didn’t have enough education to really go anywhere,” Yeager said. But she admits she found the prospect of entering college in her 50s terrifying.

To her relief, Change Point paved the way by offering a tour of the SFCC campus. “They even introduced me to some of the instructors,” she said.

While Change Point participants are primarily women, director Jim Mohr said the program welcomes men. Mohr said, “It’s an excellent program for anyone struggling with transitions.”

For Yeager and Dyer, the support and skills they received gave them the confidence to tackle new challenges like returning to school. Dyer said, “Change Point helped ground me and pull me together.”

Yeager agreed. “I never thought I could go to college. I thought I wasn’t smart enough.” Yet she’s maintained excellent grades since she enrolled last year. She added, “Change Point helped me get my feet back under me and gave me a little bit of confidence.”

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