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Individual Success Story


“This program really does work. Fresh Start doesn’t judge you; their purpose is to help you. It’s not where you’re coming from or what happened to you, their focus is to help you get that fresh start and that’s why I highly recommend this place.”

Like all work meetings, Karolyn* sat at a table surrounded by her male colleagues. She was, once again, the only woman in the room. On one afternoon, the group’s mood was dark somber as they waited to hear the official announcement and next steps after rumors of layoffs circulated their workplace.  

Her male colleagues took turns going around the table, sharing what they were going to do after the layoffs. When it was Karolyn’s turn, she proudly informed them that she would graduate with her bachelor’s degree in computer electronic engineering in September (2024).  

“They were surprised and told me how nowadays degrees don’t mean anything in our industry, in manufacturing. What counts is your experience. They continued to tell me that as a woman it can be hard to get into management positions. And I just thought, ‘Okay, thanks for just degrading me,” she remembered.  

What the men at that table didn’t know, is their words stayed with Karolyn for many months, fueling and motivating her career path. She was laid off that afternoon and when she got in her car, she called Fresh Start.  

Months before her lay off, Karolyn had called Fresh Start and spoke with Trey, a member of Fresh Start’s Education team. She was offered an interview spot for an upcoming cohort, but life got busy, and she forgot about it.  

After being in the room with that group of men, Fresh Start popped back into Karolyn’s mind.  

“I thought, ‘This time I’m going to give it a try and I’m not going to quit.’ Before, I had called Trey, and I very was interested, but then I just stopped. This time, I’m going to follow through with it. I called Trey and got the ball rolling again and here I am today,” she said. 

After speaking with Trey, Karolyn made it her short-term goal to complete three certifications as she approached her college graduation in September. First, she would complete the Composite Technician certification with her sights also set on semiconductor and sheet metal certificates. 

In a twist of adversity, the day the Composite Tech cohort was scheduled to start at Chandler Gilbert Community College, it was unexpectedly canceled due to instructor illness.  

“I spoke to Trey immediately after the news that the Composite Tech certification course was canceled and he said, ‘If you want to take advantage of another certification, we’ve got a spot for you in the semiconductor cohort.’ I immediately thought, ‘Okay, this all happened for a reason.’ And I jumped on it.” 

Karolyn joined the semiconductor cohort on the day that it started. She quickly adjusted her plans and expectations and dove headfirst into what life had in store for her.  

Five women from the canceled composite tech course switched to the semiconductor course. By week two, only Karolyn and one other woman from that group remained. They made a promise to each other to stick with it, no matter how intense the curriculum.  

“It came down to teamwork in a small group environment, and adjusting from something being canceled to then signing up for something that I hadn’t researched,” she said.  

As the days passed, Karolyn grew more confident in her knowledge of the subject. She explained that it felt like a refresher course because everything taught in the two-week training was covered in her bachelor’s degree, but she didn’t fully grasp it the first time around.  

“While getting my degree, there were a few points that I didn’t quite get because I didn’t have that one-on-one experience with the instructor because it was a huge class. I understood it, I knew how it worked, but I didn’t get the hands-on experience. In the two weeks of the Fresh Start semiconductor cohort, I literally had the hands-on experience I needed. I felt so confident. It was just the best experience ever and the instructor was so awesome,” she said. 

As the program concluded, Karolyn nervously attended Fresh Start’s career fair. She created questions for each visiting employer and thought through her own potential answers. Her nervousness grew, but she was able to center herself when she realized that through the next two certificates she planned to work on, she’d have a shot at two additional career fairs. This was great practice!  

When she arrived, Karolyn quickly noticed the Boeing table and it brought a flood of memories.  

Years ago, Karolyn worked for Boeing in the Phoenix area. She became known as one of the best technicians on her shift, then somewhere along the way, she couldn’t see as well anymore, and her work wasn’t up to her usual standard. 

“My supervisor would ask me if I was okay because my soldering was nothing like it used to be. Then I started noticing that my eyesight wasn’t good, and I got scared. I panicked. I got sad and had anxiety attacks. I should have gone to human resources and told them what was happening to me, but I didn’t. I freaked out and I quit,” she remembered. 

On her drive home after giving notice at Boeing, Karolyn’s vision was blurry, and she scheduled a same day eye exam. Her vision had suddenly decreased drastically and from the exam she was sent to a doctor who diagnosed her with Type 2 Diabetes.  

“I went into a depression. I fell into a slump, and I didn’t know what to do. I went to counseling to get my motivation back up and got new glasses so I can see,” she said. 

When she saw Boeing at the career fair so many years later, it still brought that time in her life back to mind. 

“Everyone was so excited about Boeing, and I felt a little anxiety. But I also knew I had come a long way from that point in my life. What I went through was tough, but it’s how I fixed it that counts. I went up to their table, I spoke with them and a whole weight just came off me,” she said. 

Karolyn recalled how the Boeing representatives had questions for her, and she answered naturally. She could understand their language and knew what they were talking about. Also, at the career fair was a company that Karolyn had long admired, ever since her days at Boeing. She spoke with them at length, and they informed her that they weren’t hiring at the moment. But to her surprise, the very next day, the company called her and said they’d like to give her a tour of their facility.  

“One door closes, another one opens. Everything just falls into place where you’re supposed to be at in life,” she smiled.  

On the day she completed her semiconductor course, Karolyn recalled her second phone call with Fresh Start, the one made moments after she was laid off. 

“Trey had asked, ‘Is there anything you feel like is going to deter you from finishing?’ and I just said, ‘No Trey, nothing is going to stop me. I have it set in my mind for a reason.’ The conversation with those men at the table was the last straw I needed, to say, enough is enough,” she recalled.  

The two weeks became more valuable to her than just a semiconductor course as it gave Karolyn the opportunity to finally put her needs before those of others.  

“I always stopped my life to help other people. And this time I said ‘No, this is just a temporary time that I need to save for myself.’ So, I paused on putting others first and took care of myself, and I know that’s okay to do. It’s time for me to take care of myself,” she said. 

“This program really does work. Fresh Start doesn’t judge you; their purpose is to help you. It’s not where you’re coming from or what happened to you, their focus is to help you get that fresh start and that’s why I highly recommend this place,” she said.  

Karolyn planned to complete the Composite Tech and Sheet Metal courses to attain her goal of three certificates by her undergraduate graduation date. In September 2024, she will graduate with her bachelor’s of computer electronic engineering.  

“That’s why I love Fresh Start. They change people’s lives. When I came in and sat down and watched everyone, I could see myself in them. I could see my friends in them. And I look at them and know we’re going to be okay,” she said.