Feb 15, 2016 | Harrison College
Charles Purcell worked in factories around Terre Haute for the majority of his adult life. The 63-year-old loves handling machines, specifically, as a supervisor working with others to make equipment run better and more efficiently.
But, several years ago, Purcell was laid off. Even with decades of experience, employers refused to hire him because he didn’t have a college degree.
His wife reminded him that it’s never too late to pursue his education, and Purcell decided to enroll at Harrison College’s Terre Haute campus.
“I couldn’t have chosen a better school,” he said. “They have made me feel special from the day I got online to look into attending to the day I walked in the door.”
Now with only a couple quarters to go to finish an associate degree in business management, Purcell feels reinvigorated and ready for the next chapter of his career and life.
“Employers used to turn me down because I had no formal college education,” he said. “But now they can see I have conquered college at my age which proves, surely, I will be able to do the work they need.”
Purcell has been so inspired by his time at Harrison that he is on campus as much as possible. He spends as many as 40 hours a week at Harrison studying, doing homeworking and attending classes.
“They treat you like you are special and someone important,” said Purcell. “It’s my extended family.”
Once he completes his degree next year, Purcell hopes to return to factories in Terre Haute as a supervisor.
“If I can do it, anybody can do it,” he said.
Charles Purcell is going to Harrison to jump start his career; Nicole Parsons is simply trying to start hers.
The 26-year-old also worked in local factories, but quickly realized that line of work wasn’t for her. She grew up watching her mom as an employee in the healthcare industry and had the same dream, but didn’t know how to get started.
“I knew working in a factory my whole life was not going to cut it for me,” she said. “I want to support my family and work in healthcare, and there is no way I could have done that without an education.”
She bounced around at several colleges but wasn’t getting the personal attention she expected. In 2011, Parsons finally found her fit at Harrison College.
“Harrison instructors actually want you to do well. They care about you as a person and your career. It was a totally new experience,” she said. “It’s so emotional knowing that the whole Harrison community is rooting for me, and you can’t get that family feel anywhere else.”
Parsons had an externship at Clinton Medical Clinic while pursuing her associate degree in medical assisting at Harrison. After she graduated in 2013, she was hired by the clinic and now is responsible for checking vital signs of patients, doing injections, writing prescriptions and drawing blood, among other duties.
“I felt like a failure before because I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do for my career. I was a late bloomer,” she said. “I cried the whole time walking across the stage during graduation to receive my degree. It was my biggest accomplishment to date.”
Parsons’ next big accomplishment will come later this year. She is in the process of completing her bachelor’s degree in healthcare management and is on pace to graduate in December of 2016.
“Charles and Nicole are at completely different stages in their lives, but their stories are common in Terre Haute and around the country,” said Deborah Humphrey, president of Harrison College’s Terre Haute campus. “We are in an era when people of all ages are having to learn new skills for new jobs and need an educational resource like Harrison to help open new doors.”
“For more than a century, Harrison has provided career education that empowers students to pursue careers that they can be proud of and that make a real difference for their families and communities.”< Back