With retirement plans on hold, return to school gives nursing duo hopes and dreams again

Bob and Mickie Yurick

Bob and Mickie Yurick’s retirement plans suffered some setbacks, but they didn’t let the reversals derail their dreams.

Now, at ages 60 and 58, respectively, they’re both enrolled in Stark State’s nursing program. After 38 years out of school, “we just decided to go for it,” Mickie said.

Bob navigated bumpy roads throughout his career. After graduating from Norton High, he began working at PPG as an electrician’s helper. One year later the plant closed. Next up: a 17-year stint as a machine operator before that plant, too, was shuttered. Hoping for more job security, he went for training in the tool-and-die area, then more plant closings. After 11 years at Chrysler’s stamping plant, when plans to close the factory were announced, he was given the choice to move to Michigan or take early retirement. He’s still a Buckeye, but the event short-circuited his vision of retirement.

Mickie, a graduate of Wadsworth High’s vocational secretarial program, worked a bit in hospital and school offices, then became a stay-at-home mom while also doing foster care and volunteer work. When their plans to travel and enjoy retirement went off the rails, she was frankly depressed, she said. “We had an income gap to cover,” she said. “We needed something to fall back on if something happened to one of us.”

“Going to school had been the farthest thing from either one of our minds,” Bob said. They chose a medical field “because they can’t ship it out of the country,” he said. And after years of office work, Mickie said, “I thought I’d rather spend my last years with people than papers.”

The couple earned their LPN certification at a Wayne County school with the goal of cutting the waiting time to get into the nursing program at Stark State. “If I had it to do over,” Bob said, “I would have taken all my classes here.”

Being nontraditional students didn’t slow the pair down for long, but it was nerve-wracking to make the leap, they said. “It took awhile to get my brain acclimated to schoolwork again,” Bob said. “If you don’t use it, you lose it. I’d like to see an MRI of my brain before and after I started school, because education changes your neural pathways.”

The Doylestown duo, married for 40 years and self-described as “best friends who’ve been through a lot together,” encouraged each other. They also have nothing but praise for the help they received from every area of the College. “All of our teachers have been great,” Bob said. “And the tutoring is phenomenal,” Mickie added. “That tutoring room is worth its weight in gold.”

The faculty and staff treat them no differently than their younger classmates. “Whether you’re 18 or 68, you get the same help,” Bob said. Their fellow students, too, have welcomed them into their ranks. “We were concerned at first that we wouldn’t fit in, but were surprised how accepted we’ve been,” Mickie said. “We’ve had students ask to sit with us, reschedule their classes to match our schedule, want to form study groups with us and ask to join our table in the cafeteria and even off campus.”

Along the way at Stark State they’ve earned a gerontology certificate, a nomination as a person of character and membership in Phi Theta Kappa and the TriBeta biology society. They’ve attended the Student Leadership Academy and were featured in a video for the chemistry department.

Now the road is wide open and their new careers can take them in all kinds of exciting directions, the couple said. “It’s fun to have options,” Mickie said. “Now we have optimism about being able to dream and have hope again. I can’t help but smile when thinking of all that God has done for us here.”

The Yuricks readily recommend Stark State to other nontraditional students considering a return to the classroom after they, too, find “life happens,” Mickie said. “Stark State is accessible and affordable; the cost savings is huge.” Apparently, they’ve already inspired others who find life’s path isn’t always predictable. “I had no idea we’d have this effect, but I guess we’re an encouragement,” Mickie said. “People say, ‘I think I can go back to school, too.’

“I say you’d be surprised what a person can do when they’re put in the boat of having to. We’re all more capable than we give ourselves credit for.”