Cadillac News:”Breaking age barriers,” By Mardi Suhs

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Don’t judge a book by what it looks like during high school.

Marcia Wieringa admits she “went to high school for fun.”

She also admits she wasn’t serious about her studies and never considered going to college. And then she married her high school sweetheart, a guy she met on a blind date.

But that didn’t mean she was done with learning and formal education.

She’s 58. And she’s about to graduate from Spring Arbor College with honors, a magna summa or cum laude, she’s just not sure yet. Her bachelor’s degree is in Family Life Education.

“I call myself a late bloomer,” she laughed when she was interviewed three years ago for breaking typical age barriers by becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, a Peace Corps for those volunteering within the United States instead of abroad.

Wieringa spent a year working out of the MSU Extension office as a Mentor Michigan VISTA volunteer. Her job was to recruit mentors, raise awareness of mentoring and write grants.

Just before that opportunity, she was the first person to graduate from Baker College with an associate’s degree in interior design.

“I’ve tried about 20 different occupations,” she smiled. “I’ve been a receptionist, a secretary and a cleaning person. And then I went into decorating and design, which I enjoyed immensely. That’s why I did the program at Baker.”

Wieringa said that after her stint with VISTA, she found it difficult to find full-time work without a bachelor’s degree.

“I felt that was part of the reason it was harder to get a job.”

But two years ago she was hired by Club Cadillac, a psychosocial rehab center for adults with chronic mental illness.

Club Cadillac provides meaningful work during the day in a sensitive, caring environment. The Club also works to find jobs for its members. And that’s the position Wieringa filled. She’s a job-coach.

For the last 18 months, she has worked full time while going to college.

“It feels good,” she said. “My husband should have some credit because I had to study every night and weekends. It’s like I didn’t have a life for a year and a half.”

As the interview ended, Wieringa dug her hands into the flower beds at Care Net of Cadillac. She’s also a master gardener and donates 15 hours of gardening work a year to keep that certification.

Wieringa and her husband raised two children, each with an advanced degree.

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