Janesville43.1°

Program helps seniors get wiser

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ANN MARIE AMES
October 23, 2008
— Karen Damico spent years thinking she couldn't learn.

School was hard, and she couldn't retain information.


On top of that, life happened, including marriage, kids and one or two relationships with men who put her down and re-enforced her belief that she couldn't learn.


Things have changed.


Now, Damico, 56, is studying for her high school equivalency degree through the Wisconsin Senior Employment program at the Rock County Job Center, 1900 Center Ave., Janesville. She plans to take her first test in a month.


"I feel like I'm a sponge," Damico said. "I just absorb anything now. I always have a dictionary in my purse. I don't want to look like an idiot."


The senior employment program, administered by the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board, uses federal money to help people 55 or older who live on limited incomes find work and get job training.


More than 60 people participated in the program in the last year, and 80 percent of them found regular, unsubsidized employment, according to a news release from the job center.


Damico is an artist who works on canvas and does murals in Janesville and Lake Geneva. She did the 80-by-60-foot mural inside Amazon Station, the former arcade and entertainment center on Morse Street, Janesville.


Damico of Janesville has been thinking seriously about going back to school to get a degree in interior design—a creative step up from a career as a restaurant server.


But recently, she got a new job—not through the senior employment program—at Our House Assisted Living Center, 2516 Green Valley Drive, Janesville.


And Damico thinks she's found her heart.


She's been there two months now, although she didn't think she'd make it after the first couple days.


"Now that I've worked with the elderly, I can see this is where my heart is supposed to be," Damico said. "I might just do my art shows on weekends and such. They just got to my heart."


Damico is thrilled to see doors continue to open in her life.


"All my life, I really thought that I was stupid," Damico said. "I'm finally not a victim. I got the self-esteem to believe in myself and believe I wasn't stupid. I always wanted to take this step. Even if I don't go on to school, at least this will be an achievement to say, ‘Look! I did it.' I'm glad they have something like this that gives the older person something for self esteem."


MORE INFORMATION

The Wisconsin Senior Employment program helps adults 55 and older on limited incomes get job training and employment support. For more information, call Shannon Moe of the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board at the Rock County Job Center, 1900 Center Ave., Janesville, at (608) 741-3567 or e-mail s.moe@jobcenter.org.



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