At 72 years young, Cynthia Claude Rawson, a Fort Dodge, Iowa resident, has a happy work and home life with her cat, Gracie Kitty. It wasn’t always this idyllic; Cynthia has overcome many challenges throughout her life. She discovered she had a learning disability and that led to tough moments in school, although she did excel in math and successfully earned her junior college degree. As a young adult, Cynthia battled mental health ailments and alcohol addiction which made creating a stable career quite difficult. But she is a fighter, and she began a sober life.  

In 1993, Cynthia earned her Licensed Practical Nurse certification and worked in a private setting for many years. About 10 years ago after a battle with a severe infection, Cynthia had to have her leg amputated. But she overcame that too and in 2022, Cynthia wanted to pursue employment. Just a few days after setting her sights on seeking employment, National Able Network visited Cynthia’s Fort Dodge housing community in order to connect with seniors looking to learn about the Senior Community Service Employment Act Program (SCSEP). Cynthia made her way to the meeting, but her hopes were quite dim. Little did she know her life was about to change.  

“I went down to the meeting in my wheelchair and with my leg off,” says Cynthia, “Not that it’s a bad thing. I don’t want anyone to think it’s a bad thing! It’s just different. But, I went down there thinking they wouldn’t have anything for me.” As luck would have it, Career Coach Kristi Erritt had been looking for someone like Cynthia for a while! “She mentioned her love of math and teaching,” says Kristi, “I felt I had the perfect opportunity for her.” Pretty soon Cynthia enrolled in SCSEP as a teacher’s aide focused on helping kindergarteners and first graders with math. “Getting up and going to the school every day was very difficult in the beginning, but the students and the teachers were so wonderful. I had this feeling of ‘I’m home.’” says Cynthia. She continued training as a teacher’s aide throughout the entire school year, and even helped with administrative work during the summer break.  

During the following school year, Cynthia was able to work with more students even tutoring fifth and sixth graders. She says, “We get to do show and tell during the first week of school, and I show the kids my leg. Handicapped people are people too and they’re learning that from me. We’re not weird. We’re just different. And they’re also learning from me that seniors are very important people in their life, so they can talk to me like they would a grandma or grandpa.” Cynthia has absolutely blossomed since becoming a National Able Network SCSEP participant. Kristi says, “She told me she didn’t think she had value as a person and felt isolated. This program has brought her out of her shell, made her feel she had something to offer in her community, and what she is doing is helping others in turn. Also, the extra income helps her to be able to do things that she could not afford to do before.” 

Upon reflecting over her experience Cynthia urges her fellow seniors to become SCSEP participants through National Able Network, and to her career coach who gave her hope and guidance, she says, “Thank you for taking a chance on me.” At National Able Network, we strive to help and support all job seekers – no matter where they might find themselves in life! Connect with us today and let’s find your home away from home.