Laid off in his 50s after 19 years in the steel industry, Kenneth Glynn found the prospect of stepping back into a classroom at Lorain County Community College daunting. But he forged ahead and has left his “war room” untouched, the books and papers strewn about a testament to the middle-of-the-night studying that made his 18-month ascent to an associate degree possible.
The degree he obtained with the help of LCCC’s SAIL (Students Accelerating in Learning) program and the job he now holds at the college as an outreach associate are proof of just how far he’s come — and, he says, how far anybody can come with the right mindset and the help of LCCC.
“It was lot of work at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning,” he says. “I still don’t believe it. I feel like I’m going to wake up and say, ‘Man, what a dream!’”
Touched by an angel
Glynn says he was an “ostrich with his head in the sand” when he stepped into the classroom for the first time in more than 30 years. Carolyn Gang, an instructor in LCCC’s Science and Mathematics Division, termed him a “deer in the headlights.”
“Some students have to dig deep into their cobwebs to pull this information out,” Gang says. “But this wasn’t even in his cobwebs. This information was new to him.”
Glynn pursued a degree in business administration, with an eye toward working for the Veterans Health Administration. Because he had lost his job due to the effects of foreign imports on the steel industry, he was eligible for a Trade Readjustment Allowance to assist with tuition.
He was also eligible for LCCC’s SAIL program, which accelerates students’ progression toward an associate degree by assigning them an academic adviser and awarding financial incentives such as gift cards for gas and groceries, textbook vouchers and tuition assistance.
“We want to make sure they can get to class or have food and have personalized advising and resume workshops,” says Matthew Mercado, project coordinator for SAIL. “The goal is for students to graduate within three years.”
Gang helped him get over the mental hurdle of going back to school. When Glynn and other students needed help after class, she stayed. When they had quizzes on Monday, she worked Sunday to help them prepare.
“Certain teachers capture your mind but not your heart, or capture your heart but not your mind,” Glynn says. “But when you capture someone’s mind and heart, you have them forever. She was an angel put in my life for that moment.”
Gang beams at the thought, but defers credit.
“All of the instructors are willing to go the extra mile to make sure these students are successful,” she says. “And with Kenny, he’s just an easy person to work with because of his desire.”
Achieving the DREAM
At Achieving the Dream’s annual conference in Nashville in February, Glynn, 52, stood before 2,300 higher education leaders and read a poem he wrote about life with a mother born in Alabama and who moved to Elyria at age 9. There, Glynn learned the importance of community.
And Elyria was where he remade his career and his life at LCCC. Lines of his poem reflect his experience.
I come from the South side of E-town
where you dream with your eyes wide open.
I come from the courage to go back to school
after losing my job at the steel mill,
twenty years of back breaking work that filled
my banking account but emptied my soul.
I come from the mentoring of my professors and
the counseling that I received from advisors.
I come from the new passion they gave me to receive
my 1st degree within 18 months.
I come from Lorain County Community College
where my dreams became a reality.
Glynn was one of seven students named a DREAM Scholar at the conference and one of two asked to read his poem and speak.
Glynn has always strived to be his best. After graduating from Elyria High School in 1984, he joined the Army, where he served as a communication chief. Then he got a job at the local steel mill.
That ended in 2015, when the plant began shuttering operations. At that moment, Glynn never dreamed of being a DREAM Scholar. But after investigating his options and meeting an LCCC professor, he discovered losing his job was the key to finding his true self.
Today, Glynn is pursuing a second associate degree in liberal arts and will pursue his bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership from Cleveland State University through LCCC’s University Partnership.
“My message would be to listen to yourself,” he says. “If there’s something you want to do, I don’t care how old you are, put your best foot forward. If you put yourself in a position to reach out and somebody can grab your hand and pull you up, most of the time you’re going to get pulled up.”