Woman finds new career path at age 61

June 3, 2008 8:46:33 AM PDT
Lavada Varner is living proof that it's never too late to go to college and strike out on a new career path.With assistance from San Jacinto College's innovative Never Too Late (N2L) club, Varner is taking culinary arts classes at the College's Central campus and is well on her way to fulfilling her dreams of working in the hospitality industry.

"No retirement for me anytime soon," quipped Varner, who recently turned 61. "The hospitality industry is growing and I love the service industry. Communications and marketing are a real possibility for something in the hotel/restaurant industry. San Jacinto College has an amazing culinary arts program, and through the program I will soon start as an intern at a local restaurant."

Varner plans to earn an associate degree in culinary arts from San Jacinto College and then to transfer to the University of Houston's Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. She says her newfound enthusiasm resulted from assistance and direction she found at San Jacinto College.

Varner was considering retiring after 20 years in maintenance and facility services with Houston Independent School District. She decided to take a Microsoft Office course at San Jacinto College during the summer to sharpen her skills.

"The class was excellent, but I felt something was still missing in my life," she commented. "One day I was almost in tears and out of desperation I stopped to speak to a woman sitting in the main foyer. I told her I was lost and did not know where to turn. Kaye Moon Winters smiled and shared her amazing story of getting her degree later in life."

Winters, founder of the College's Never Too Late club, told Varner about N2L and the Student Success Center, which work together to help non-traditional students adjust to the academic rigors of college life by providing support, tutoring and other resources. Varner attended a N2L meeting, where she found immediate camaraderie among others with similar backgrounds.

"These were people I could relate to, who were traveling the same path as me," she remarked. "I knew I had the support, help, direction, and caring that I really needed to return to school and earn that elusive degree."

Varner, who lives in North Shore, is married and has two adult children who have both earned degrees at Sam Houston State University, one who is working on his PhD. After graduating from Channelview High School, Varner wanted to continue her education but was unable, because, as she succinctly puts it, "life happened."

With her children now on their own and with the time and desire to attend college, Varner says she is grateful for the assistance she has received at San Jacinto College. After encouraging her to pursue her dream to attend college, Winters directed Varner to the College's Student Success Center, where counselor Dora Trevino helped her to put together a degree plan and informed her about many resources available to non-traditional students.

"It is truly never too late to learn, and in today's world many are not retiring and many are going back to complete their education," Varner said. "The decision to attend college was easy, I just needed someone to show me the way."

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