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In the late 1990s, Melissa Yank was a clerk with the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation when she volunteered for a project with the agency’s new website. On a whim, she decided to take a coding class to help her with that project.
“The next thing you know, I have a degree in computer information systems,” she said of the bachelor’s degree in computer information systems she received from DeVry University in 2007.
Clearly it was not quite that easy: There was juggling work and family with hours of courses and homework. But Yank says that OCSEA’s negotiated education benefits made achieving her degree a reality.
“Without that benefit, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now,” said Yank, who has been a software developer specialist 3 since 2006. “I had so many opportunities because of that. I got my degree, and I was able to promote with that and get into IT.”
Yank learned about OCSEA’s education benefit at an education fair at her workplace. She talked with union and college representatives about what was available. Yank had always considered studying information technology but hadn’t really considered pursuing a career in that field.
“The program made it so easy,” she said. “Everything was set out for me to do.”
Since earning her degree, Yank has continued to use the Union Education Trust for short-term training and professional development. She praises the program for how user-friendly it is.
“The process is so easy,” she said. “The benefit is there, it’s available. It is money I could use easily that otherwise wouldn’t have been available. I could ask: What’s there for me that I can use?”
Yank is now giving back to UET by serving on the program’s IT committee. But she’s been active in the union for many years, beginning as a steward at her local chapter more than 25 years ago.
She admits that she didn’t know much about the union when she first got involved.
“Someone just tapped me on the shoulder, so I said ‘Sure!’” she said. “Helping people is kind of my thing.”
Yank is now the chapter president and a delegate to the BWC Assembly. She recently got elected to the OCSEA Board.
Yank credits OCSEA and the union’s focus on lifelong learning for getting her where she is today.
“I appreciate all the opportunities that a union job offers,” Yank said. “I’ve been very lucky. Things have fallen well for me because of the opportunities that the union has given me.”
Melissa Yank’s tips for success using UET:
1) Know that if you put your mind to it, you can do it.
2) Don’t downplay what you’re doing: It is an accomplishment.
3) Squeeze in the homework whenever you can (lunch time, weekends, etc.)
4) Find a classmate you can work with to support each other.
5) Keep the goal in mind through the hard times: You’ll get it done. One way to do that is to print out the courses you are taking so you can check them off as you complete them.