Alexandrian honored for overcoming workplace barriersWhen Sharon Bron-kema of Alexandria turned 55, she needed to find a new full-time job. After leaving her position as a para-professional at Discovery Middle School and Jefferson High School, she worked part-time in the Early Childhood Family Education Center, but wasn’t making enough.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
When Sharon Bron-kema of Alexandria turned 55, she needed to find a new full-time job.
After leaving her position as a para-professional at Discovery Middle School and Jefferson High School, she worked part-time in the Early Childhood Family Education Center, but wasn’t making enough.
She came to Experience Works in Alexandria for help – the nation’s largest non-profit training and employment organization for older workers.
Bronkema told Experience Works about her volunteer efforts at Someplace Safe, a non-profit shelter and advocacy program for battered women and other crime victims in Douglas County.
After Bronkema said she really wanted to work there, Someplace Safe was contacted about becoming a host agency for job training.
Someplace Safe enthusiastically agreed to teach Brokema the job skills she needed to launch a new career.
Bronkema was only a few weeks into her training when Someplace Safe decided to hire her part-time until funding became available a few months later to employ her full-time in office support.
Last month, Bronkema received a statewide award from Experience Works for overcoming significant barriers in the workplace to achieve success.
She was honored last week as a 2009 Experience Works “Participant Champion” for older workers in Minnesota.
Someplace Safe Manager JoAnn Boorman noted that Bronkema’s duties initially consisted of general office work, but she did much more.
“She organizes donations, knows where everyone is and where they will be for the day,” Boorman said. “She helps in any way she can and often before she is asked.”
Boorman added that Bronkema has a wide knowledge base and that her previous work with children was beneficial.
“Sometimes we have children that need entertaining or comforting when their mother is in with an advocate,” Boorman said. “Sharon knows just what to do for them to distract their fears and help them feel safe.”
Susie Trexler, a volunteer/coordinator/advocate for Someplace Safe, also had high praise for Bronkema. “We do not know what we did without Sharon here. She is always there to help us, many times she fills the need before we realize there is one. She has such a cheerful giving heart.”
Bronkema is grateful for the opportunity to further her career.
“To this day, I feel that Experience Works helped open the door at Someplace Safe a little wider for me,” said Bronkema. “My day-to-day training tasks helped me prove to myself that I could multi-task, which was something I had done for 30 years when I worked at Fingerhut. I’ve blossomed here and have learned that I can relate very well to others. I feel at home here. My co-workers are not only my support system – they are my friends. They are my success story!”
The Minnesota Champion Award winners are also eligible to receive national recognition. They, along with nominees from the other 29 states in which Experience Works operates and Puerto Rico, will be considered for the National Champion Awards, which will be presented on September 22, 2009 in Washington, D.C.
“It is our great pleasure to honor these individuals for their outstanding contributions to older workers in Minnesota,” said Teri Stepaniak, newly appointed state director for Experience Works. “We greatly appreciate their efforts – and the support of all of our partners who provide low-income people age 55 and older with an opportunity to serve their communities, improve their job skills and prepare for permanent employment.”
For more information about the Experience Works Champion Awards, or to find out about Experience Works’ services available to older job seekers, host agencies or employers, visit www.experienceworks.org or call 1-866-397-9757.