Rolanda Clark was always interested in flowers. When she lost her job at BARD, she learned about the WSWHE BOCES Horticulture and Landscaping program through the One Stop Center of Saratoga-Warren-Washington Counties.
“They were very helpful at the One Stop,” Rolanda said. “I had no clue about where to go to school at my age, so they gave me choices of where to go and what to do.”
At 60, Rolanda is always happy to learn something new, and she approaches career change with a thoughtful and positive approach.
“I worked at a bank for 10 years, and after my position there was eliminated, I wanted to do something more physical, so I worked at a warehouse for 9 years,” she said. She’s never afraid of not finding a job: “If I have to go back and learn something, that’s fine. No matter how old you are, if you don’t know something, you have to learn it.”
Rolanda says she is still in the learning process in her horticulture class, but she is surprised by how much she knows how to do for landscaping. “I didn’t know I had this ability,” she said, when referring to how she measured the space and planned the plantings. “I worked with Sharon, another adult student, and we asked each other questions and looked things up.”
Rolanda and Sharon attend the Career and Technical Education class Monday through Friday for both morning and afternoon sessions, that way they will be finished with the curriculum in one year. They partake in the integrated English Language Arts and math portion of the curriculum alongside the high school students in the morning and work on long-term, independent projects during the afternoon session.
“At first I did not like the integrated academics,” Rolanda said, noting: “I went to school 42 years ago! I realize how much I have lost in my math, so I think it’s very helpful now. I use math every day, whether it’s for landscaping or making signs for the shop.”
The long-term project she and Sharon are working on is choosing which vegetable seeds to grow in the greenhouse next spring. “We have to look up different varieties of vegetables on the computer, how they will grow in this climate and type of soil, and if it’s too expensive for the market.”
If the partners have trouble with the computer, they ask their high school classmates for help. “The high school kids are fantastic!” Rolanda said. “There are a couple of them whose faces light up when I ask for computer help. I am really grateful for the help, and they are really proud of themselves. They know more than they think they do.”
Rolanda’s children and grandchildren are so supportive of her decision to go back to school that they accompanied her to the Fall Parent Night to see her classroom and meet her teacher. “My 12-year old grandson introduces me to his friends and says ‘This is my grandma, she goes to school!’”
Rolanda’s teenage classmates are the same age as her granddaughter. “How many kids can say ‘my grandma goes to school with my ex-boyfriend?’” she laughed.
Soon, Rolanda will do an internship to get some practical experience in the field. She doesn’t want to sacrifice any classroom learning time though, so her internship will most likely take place after school hours.
“I like knowing as much as possible about plants, and I like working in the greenhouse,” she said. “I am confident I’m going to know what I need to know when I go to work.”
After being a teacher’s aid and teacher’s assistant, and driving a school bus part-time, in addition to all of her other positions, Rolanda hopes horticulture and landscaping will be her last career move. She gives credit to the One Stop for being a great resource for job searching and retraining, and for sponsoring her education here at WSWHE BOCES.