Thirty years after she dropped out of high school, Angela Trotter will walk across the stage this spring to collect the diploma she recently earned. The certificate means much more than passing tests to resume a course Angela had to forgo. It represents passing tests in life after hard lessons learned. It also represents her passport to further goals.
Last fall, Angela left her job as a medical assistant because she was frustrated that she could not advance her career. She had saved money for her expenses as she devoted herself to studying.
“I always try to plan forward to give myself a sense of security,” said Angela, 48. “That’s how I was able to take the time off to get my diploma. Not having my diploma was a barrier to getting ahead.”
Though Angela was taking a calculated risk, she also knew she had the support of others, including the Counseling staff who assist her at Southwest Solutions. Angela receives mental health counseling at our Waterman Outpatient Clinic. She started going there two years ago after she ended an abusive relationship and needed therapy for post-traumatic stress and depression. Angela also enrolled in our Supported Employment program, which helps adults recovering from mental health illness connect with employment opportunities. Angela has been working with Employment Specialist Candice Taylor.
“Candice really listened to me, encouraged me to pursue my goals, and helped me apply for jobs I would want,” Angela said.
“I am so impressed with Angela,” Candice said. “She is ambitious, smart and determined. She was able to complete her high school diploma in just two months, and we started looking for the best opportunity for her.”
Just after Christmas, Angela got the exciting news that the full-time job she was hoping to get was hers. The job is a Medical Support Coordinator at a Detroit Public School (DPS), helping students and their families get the help they need to improve their medical and mental health.
“When I told my mom about the job, she said this is the kind of work you’ve wanted to do your whole life and that she is very proud of me,” Angela said. “To get this validation from my mother is very meaningful.”
The DPS job was supposed to start after students returned to in-person classes after the holiday break. Unfortunately, the Omicron surge delayed the return, and thus the start of Angela’s job. So, Angela interviewed for a good-paying medical assistant job with good benefits and opportunities for advancement. Angela was immediately offered the position, and she happily accepted it.
Not only is Angela starting her new job in the new year, she is also starting the nursing program at Wayne County Community College. Her tuition will be paid through Michigan Reconnect, a State initiative that provides scholarships to in-district community colleges for eligible residents.
Even though she had dropped out of high school as a youth, education has been an important value and aspiration for Angela, and she instilled this attitude in her two children, who are now grown. Angela left school because she was pregnant with her daughter, who is presently working toward her Master’s in Public Policy after graduating from Michigan State. Angela’s son graduated from high school and now manages a restaurant.
To support her children when they were young, Angela first started working in a group home. She then became a medical assistant in 2012.
“When you have children, you do what you have to do and make sacrifices to have a place to live and provide for them,” Angela said.
Angela has always been a renter, but that is something she also wants to change this year. She has enrolled in the Homebuyer Education class offered by Southwest Solutions, and she hopes to get a place of her own to build wealth as she builds her new career.
“I am very focused on where I am heading and what it takes to get there,” Angela said.
Our supported employment services are formally called the Individual Placement and Support – Supported Employment (IPS-SE) program. IPS-SE is supported through Medicaid billing processed by DWIHN. For more information about the program, email Barbara Gray, IPS-SE Program Manager at Southwest Solutions.