Shelley Rainey says she’s found it stretching out in front of her just about everywhere she’s turned at Stark State College, including landing an internship with Sandia National Laboratories.
Rewind, first, to just after her graduation from Jackson High in 1988 when she “wanted as far away from Ohio as I could go,” she said, and took her secretarial skills to Key West, Fla. Life, however, brought her back to the Buckeye State and job testing determined that she and machining would be a good fit. In 1998 she logged a 4.0 GPA in earning a certificate from Stark State’s CNC program, an introduction that whetted her appetite for a technical career.
“It was a phenomenal program, but when I was pregnant with my third child and sweating in a machine shop on second shift, I thought there is more I could do. I wanted a full-blown engineering degree,” she said. “When I got back to Stark State I became a sponge, soaking up as much information as possible, as fast as I could, because there’s so much I want to learn.”
She plans to graduate in the spring with an associate degree in mechanical engineering and an advanced AutoCAD certificate. And the future looks brighter still. After Stark State’s student services help center, Connection Central, sent her to the SSC Career Development Office, things began to click. Shelley subsequently met with recruiters from Sandia, a company that’s hired more than 70 Stark State grads over the years.
“They said they were impressed with my GPA and my determination,” said Shelley, who spent three months over the summer in a Sandia mechanical drafting internship in the company’s New Mexico headquarters. “It was a very positive experience. I met incredible people and it amazed me they were willing to invest in me. I think women bring a different perspective to the engineering field and I know Sandia only hires the best of the best, so the internship was an enormous opportunity to be involved in. It showed me all the possibilities the company has to offer.”
Not that Shelley has let obstacles stand in her way so far. Being a nontraditional student – a mother of three, including a child with a disability, as well as a grandmother – gave her extra motivation to succeed, she said. “Now I’m encouraging my sister and my daughter to come to Stark State,” she said. “It’s so important these days to have that degree.”
Although it may take her to the mountains of New Mexico instead of the beaches of Key West, Shelley is optimistic about her prospects for a job after graduation. “I found you have to try all your avenues and have the strength not to give up,” she said. “I learned it’s OK to not know all the answers, as long as you can figure out where to find them.”
Stark State, Shelley said, has been key in many ways on her journey. “Not only is it close to home, the professors are the kindest and most personable people. It’s reasonably priced and there are lots of connections to help you; they pointed me to the right places to get help.” The Career Development Office, she said, was especially valuable. “They helped me tremendously with getting ready for my internship with Sandia. In fact, they were very helpful from the beginning.”
“The fact that companies as far away as New Mexico are seeking out Stark State students says they’re turning out quality graduates and shows me I’m in a great place getting my education. Stark State made it not only easy to do, but it’s making me feel good about myself. I credit everyone along the way for helping me – instructors, staff, fellow students.
“The whole environment is a good experience. They really want you to succeed.”
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