Terry Ramey started working on an assembly line at a Ford Motor Co. plant outside Ann Arbor, Mich., when he was in his 20s.
“I’m third-generation auto,” he explains. Like his father and grandfather, he figured he would retire from the same job.
But after more than 13 years, the monotony of the line, the physical toll it took on his body and the auto industry’s uncertain future started Ramey thinking about leaving. “The quality of life, even though I made a good living, was terrible.”
Not too long afterward, Ramey happened to be the first on the scene of a highway motorcycle accident. He was calm, able to help the injured man – and surprised that he got so much satisfaction from doing it.
When Ford offered an “education buyout package” – a chance to attend school for four years and receive $15,000 in annual tuition money and half his annual wages – Ramey jumped at the chance. He enrolled in a four-year nursing program that combines two years at Washtenaw Community College and two years at the University of Michigan.
At 40, Ramey had never attended college. He was nervous about it, “but once the ‘want-to-do-more’ got bigger than the sacrifice, it overrode the fear,” he says. “And, besides, it was time.”
The goal: a bachelor’s degree in nursing, with its job security, personal satisfaction and opportunities to advance into health care management positions.
The buyout helped Ramey make the jump, but he’s still worried about paying for the whole four years. “I won’t let it stop me,” he says. “I want to earn a degree so I can be proud of an achievement like that.” With scholarships and part-time work, Ramey hopes to become a nurse at 44.
“It’s really important to me to be able to help people,” he says. “That alone improves your quality of life.”
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