By Dawn Burns, Academic and Learning Resource Center Assistant
Thoughts turn to renewal at the start of a new year, but it’s happening all the time. We just have to listen.
For Erica Burkhart, a 2019 Ivy Tech Warsaw graduate, “renewal means making a better version of yourself for you and for others.”
Burkhart has lived through renewal brought on by challenging circumstances. In 2016 she was taking classes towards her associate’s degree in business administration and working full-time when she lost child support, a critical piece of her income as a single mom of two daughters.
Burkhart reached out to Project Independence, a Combined Community Services (CCS) mentoring program with a stated goal of helping Kosciusko County families achieve economic independence through education. She credits Project Independence with providing an “extra boost of motivation and the extra care factor” she needed.
Project Independence case manager Abby Rank sees starting new after some kind of barrier or interruption in life as a key component of renewal and of the work she does guiding participants and their families towards self-sufficiency using one-on-one mentorship, life skill building activities, workshops, financial counseling, resource locating, and more.
In 2017 Burkhart went job hunting with a resume she had created with her case manager and landed a position at Montieth’s Best One Tire and Auto Care in Warsaw. Burkhart continues to work at Montieth’s, doing “a little bit of everything” including reconciling invoices, doing inventory management, and working the counter.
Rank claims Burkhart as a Project Independence success story: “Erica utilized every resource she was able to so that she could continue to work a 9-5 job and provide for her family, all while attending college and always with a smile on that face!”
Burkhart also credits Ivy Tech faculty, employees, student organizations, and community partnerships for her success. “I found that every professor worked toward helping me grow and complete the courses,” she says. “If people realized how helpful this campus is, I think a lot more people would attend. You have so much here for people to thrive, including the Basics Bank, caring professors, and inclusive clubs.”
Rank shares her praise for Ivy Tech’s connection to the community through direct services and referrals. “We are able to continue to support students to achieve their goals! Having that extra support and cheerleader means all the difference for many individuals and families who may not have that elsewhere.”
To those in need of renewal, Burkhart offers this encouragement. “That degree brought goodness for me but also for my children, my friends, and my coworkers who could see that if I could work full-time and get a degree, maybe they could too. And when I received my diploma in the mail, I knew that nobody could ever take that degree away from me.”