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Started at the Bottom - Now Top of Her Class & Employed in a Rewarding Career


Terissa is originally from a very small town and said she never thought her life would go in the direction it did after taking the Utility Arborist course. (photo: Terissa speaks about the Utility Arborist program at the Mid-America Regulatory Conference in Grand Rapids)


Terissa had a difficult past with addiction and incarceration. She was living in transitional housing when she first heard about the short-term Utility Arborist training course at Alpena Community College and immediately knew it was something she wanted to pursue. But after her incarceration she had little funding of her own. She was working part-time as a cook making $11/hour and struggling to make ends meet. She knew she’d have to wait months or even years in order to save the amount needed to pay for the program.


After speaking with a Michigan Works! Michigan Learning & Education Advancement Program Navigator, Terissa learned that tuition assistance was available. She was thrilled at this chance at training and a new career. She was able to receive grant funding which covered almost all of her tuition costs, as well as supportive services which covered the costs of her required drug and alcohol tests, DOT physical, climbing boots, hard hat, and safety glasses required for the class. She also received assistance from the BRES (Barrier Removal Employment Success) program to help cover her bed fee at the fellowship house while she completed her training. Thanks to this assistance, Terissa was fast-tracked into a well-paying and exciting career, where she didn’t have to start from the bottom. During her graduation ceremony Terissa said she plans to work very hard to become a foreman within a year.


Terissa was the only woman in the class cohort of three and was the best climber. The instructor said she was the top of her class. She is also the only woman to go through the Utility Arborist program so far. By the end of the program, Terissa already had a job in her field and is now making over $19/hour. Terissa said she learned not only how to work as a team, but also that you can develop healthy addictions that add value to your life, rather than unhealthy ones that take value away.


Terissa states, “I learned a lot and when it came time to graduate and to transition to the work field, it made the transition super easy. I went right to work.”


She said she started higher up on the totem pole than most do when they start in this field thanks to her education. Usually people have to spend a year on the ground first, but she started out as a C Climber, earning a higher wage. She noted that, “it gave me an amazing opportunity to further my future. I've had a lot of rough things in my past, and coming into this program changed a lot of things. I went from one addiction to a very healthy other addiction. I love to cut trees, I love to work outside, and in this industry it’s an amazing opportunity to move forward into something that’s different. When we went through this course it was more than just a class, it turned us into a family.”

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