Brenda Bryant was a mere 16 when she graduated from New Stanton Senior High School in 1969. She started work immediately, tallying up 35 years of customer service employment. By July 2010 she had been an operation clerk for six years. She recognized the value of education, even making sure that her only son, Ephraim Walker, was able to go to college and get his bachelor’s degree. Yet she never made time or the commitment for herself to go back to school. She regretted that decision, but the farther away it got, the less likely it seemed to ever be a possibility—until a series of sudden life-changing events occurred.
In a relatively short period of time, she was faced with an unexpected divorce and the death of her mother. Then on July 17, 2010, she found out along with 49 coworkers that they were all losing their jobs. On July 20, with $13 in her checking account, she filed for unemployment. In September, the state presented her an opportunity to shift gears and enter a high-demand career, if she qualified through testing, and receive a $7,000 WorkSource (now CareerSource) educational scholarship.
At age 59, without having seen the inside of a classroom for 42 years, Bryant returned to school in January 2011. The career choice for her was easy. Culinary Arts was at the top of the state’s list and as she simply said, “I love to cook.”
“My journey has been such a joy,” Bryant said. “The professors at Kent and chefs at North were outstanding,” bringing out things in her she “thought were dead” but were very much alive. Bryant made the President’s List or Dean’s List all three semesters. She received her A.S. in Culinary Management, with high honors, in Fall 2013, at age 62. Inspired and assured by her FSCJ experience, and realizing “it’s never too late,” she has started her own catering business, “Heaven Over C.” In 2014 she began studies in the FSCJ Supervision and Management bachelor’s degree program.
“I thought all hope was gone,” said Bryant of the unexpected events that brought her to FSCJ and turned her life around. “Now I’m a business owner with a staff of employees. I’m giving back,” she proudly states.