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Alumni Engagement

By the books: Interlake grad lands library role after returning to school later in life

May 27, 2019

Darlene Phillips says going back to college in her 40s was an adjustment, but she wanted to be better equipped to re-enter the workforce.

She already knew she liked numbers and had prior experience working in office jobs, so she decided to attend Red River College’s Interlake Campus in Selkirk to update her training.

Between June 2014 and December 2015, she completed a total of five courses: Bookkeeping and Small Business Office, Business, Accounting and Management, Human Resource Management, Business and Administrative Studies, and Management Development.

She said the course load was exhausting, but worthwhile.

“It was very overwhelming in the beginning, but as time went by I adapted to college life. I really liked the smaller classroom setting where everyone had a common goal,” says Phillips.

“You can never give up on yourself,” she continues. “When you feel overwhelmed you must remember your goals, and gather your inner strength to succeed from that.”

“I know now there’s nothing holding me back.”

Phillips’ brother died in 2007, and she took in her niece and nephew and cared for them as if they were her own children. She moved to Selkirk in 2010, and was out of the workforce while raising the kids. Once they grew up, she realized she had more time on her hands, which is when she decided to go back to school.

“Sometimes in life things happen that don’t seem fairyou need to find a way to deal with them,” says Phillips. “You must always keep moving forward in life. It’s okay to visit the past through memories … but your focus should be on the present and the future.”

Phillips completed a mix of full-time and part-time programs, and set some goals from the start to maintain a high GPA and graduate with honours. She achieved all of her goals while also working full-time — and continuing to care for her family.

Anything is possible in life, you just have to find a way to get to where you want to be,” she says. “The knowledge I gained through my studies gave me more confidence, and that has really enriched my life.”

Phillips completed the practicum component of her Bookkeeping and Small Business Office studies at the Gaynor Family Regional Library in Selkirk. She says she loved “everything about the place — I love books and there’s no better place to be if I want to research something.”

She was invited back to the library for her Human Resource Management practicum, and while there, a position opened up that matched her skill set. She applied, and landed the role as Finance and HR Coordinator, which she still has to this day.

Phillips also serves as chair of the Selkirk Community Renewal Corporation’s board. She feels fortunate to have found a job in Selkirk because driving to Winnipeg to work wasn’t ideal for her family and took away her flexibility.

“The kids are still in school, and if something happens I’m still able to be there,” says Phillips. “The library is actually right across from RRC!”

Ken Kuryliw, Director of Library Services, says Phillips had well developed skills when she came to the library for her practicum. He says she stood out because she was very positive and professional, and she complimented their existing staff with a modern skillset.

“She taught our previous finance person how to run reports and make graphs in QuickBooks they didn’t know were possible, which benefitted us greatly,” says Kuryliw. “RRC grads tend to come with a strong skillset on the popular software we use, so the time to train them is less.”

Phillips says she couldn’t have secured the job at the library without first attending the courses at RRC.

“I loved the programming, and the instructors were very informative,” says Phillips. “Especially when you’re an adult going back, you want to have someone who’s approachable because it makes you more comfortable.”

That said, Phillips knows there’s always room for improvement, and plans to return to RRC to take more courses in the future.

“You can never have too much education,” she says. “And you’re never too old to go back.”

Profile by Raegan Hedley (Creative Communications, 2016)