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Former GE worker to speak at Friday’s graduation

By James Boyd 331-4307 |
Ivy Tech grad to talk about retraining, new job after layoff

Four years ago, Wendy Carroll thought she had it all. A great family, and a great job. She had worked on the assembly line at GE for 11 years, following in the footsteps of nearly everyone else in her family. Then one day, it all went away. “I didn’t think the layoffs were going to get me,” she said. “I thought once I got my job there, I was set.”

Ivy Tech’s 2008 commencement ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. Friday at the Indiana University Auditorium.

About 200 students are expected to graduate with associate of science degrees, associate of applied science degrees or technical certificates.

“Each student who graduates has their own story about his or her journey to this important milestone,” Ivy Tech-Bloomington Chancellor John Whikehart said in a statement. “During the ceremony, many of us will reflect upon those accounts while watching graduates move forward in their lives.”Trucks Leaving for Yankee Stadium
Wendy Carroll. John D. Shearer | Courtesy photo

But she wasn’t. It was 2004, and Carroll’s prospects looked bleak. Then, she learned GE would pay for two years of school if she went to Ivy Tech Community College.

“I always kind of wanted to be a lab techie,” Carroll said Wednesday, two days before she’ll not only earn her associate of applied science degree, but also serve as the commencement speaker for the class of 2008.

She said she’s terrified of speaking, but knows she has the support of her family and classmates. Her story serves as an example for anyone who’s considered pursuing higher education.

It also takes on new meaning in the wake of GE’s plans to close the Bloomington refrigerator plant next year, which will end up giving about 900 people Carroll’s initial fate.

“I know how they’re feeling,” she said. “They’re terrified. I was terrified. For anyone getting laid off, it’s just frightening.”

Carroll now hopes her path to a new career can at least help give others some semblance of hope.

That will be the focus of her speech at Ivy Tech-Bloomington’s commencement ceremony, set for 6 p.m. Friday in the Indiana University Auditorium.

“It’s mostly going to be about the journey, in realizing that not everything is an easy journey,” Carroll said. “You need the support of everyone around you, and you can’t forget to give back to someone else. You’ve got to help somebody, because we’ve all been helped along the way. If we hadn’t been, we wouldn’t be here where we are today.”

Carroll now works at Cook Pharmica, and she hopes to begin work soon on her bachelor’s degree at IU. She’s thinking chemistry might be a good fit for someone with her skills and interests.

She credits GE with helping pay for her school and helping find internships to make up the difference in whatever they didn’t cover, and Ivy Tech with giving her a new lease on life.

Getting laid off, she said, wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. And that’s advice she’d give to other factory workers who may find themselves out of work.

“They just need to persevere, to stick with it,” Carroll said. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m starting to see it.”