December 14, 2017

Lorna AlexanderIt is never too late to open and walk through the door of education.

“I always told myself, ‘You don’t have time to fail … you are 50-some years old, and you don’t have time,” Lorna Alexander says. “You’ve got to keep moving. You’ve got to keep going.’ That’s what I did.”

At 54, while working full-time for Nordyne, a heating and cooling manufacturer in Boonville, Alexander was finally able to pick up her education again. Though she participated in State Fair’s Nursing program almost two decades prior, she didn’t complete her degree due to unforeseen circumstances. This time around, she had Nordyne’s financial support and a determination to finish at SFCC’s Boonville campus.

“It was scary for me because, I’m thinking, at my age, with all these young people, how am I going to keep up?” Alexander says. “[But] the students, even though the majority were younger than myself, were very helpful, friendly. We encouraged each other.”

While Alexander initially struggled with her new business classes, she cites a turning point in the support given to her by her instructors and administration.

“You could go to the administration and they’d guide you,” she says. “They had time for you. I didn’t ask for a handout; I asked for a hand up, and they gave that to me.”

When Nordyne rebranded as Nortek and moved production to Mexico, Alexander suddenly found herself unemployed. Fortunately, after finishing her Associate of Applied Science with State Fair, Alexander turned this challenge into an opportunity. Using funding from Trade Adjustment Assistance, she went on to Columbia College where she finished her bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Management in April 2017 at age 58.

While Alexander felt far more comfortable and prepared by the time she transferred to Columbia College, she was thankful she started her journey at SFCC.

“You weren’t just a number. If you needed help, it was there,” she says. “Don’t be shy to ask for it. It’s there. I hope that anybody who goes to school understands that.”

Now a licensed practical nurse for Cargill in Marshall, Alexander is able to focus on work without worrying about her studies and isn’t slowing down. She is already looking for a new position with benefits that can best utilize her new skills.

“My husband is retiring in the next couple years, so we need to be prepared. And I don’t plan on retiring, I just don’t,” she says with a laugh. “I keep thinking that I’ll just keep working, and if I get to a point where I can’t work as much anymore, I’ll just cut my hours down.”

Family has been a critical part of Alexander’s life, as the youngest of 21 siblings.  Today she hopes to pass that sense of family on to her compact family of three.

“This accomplishment is not only for me, it’s for my family,” she says, thanking her husband and son for being her cheerleaders. “We love deeply, and we love hard, so I always feel that if I’ve made it, then it’s for all of us.”

While Alexander feels blessed for the incredible support she’s experienced, she says that the decision to go back to school has to start with the individual.

“If you really want to do it, you need to do it,” she says. “It’s a need within you. It’s not just a want; it’s a need.”

Education, she says, isn’t always confined to the classroom. We can learn from just engaging in a simple conversation; all we have to do is open ourselves up to the experience.

Story by Jackson Ingram
Summer 2017 Communications Intern
Marketing and Communications

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