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Social work major intends to become change agent for the community

Thursday, May 18, 2023 12:00 AM

Carrie Sylvester
Carrie Sylvester

Carrie Sylvester had no map to navigate from Kickapoo High School in Springfield, Missouri, where she grew up, to full-time studies at Macomb. But at 50, the former firefighter, current 911 dispatcher and married mother of six and grandmother of four, is confident about the direction she is taking her life in.

“My next step is to begin the master’s program at Wayne State University,” said Sylvester, who intends to major in social work. “My ultimate career goal is to work in the public service field, reestablishing values and visions.”

Seizing the day

Paving the way financially is Michigan’s Futures for Frontliners, a scholarship program dedicated to helping those who served on the frontline during the pandemic return to school and earn a degree.  Sylvester hadn’t attended college since the early 1990s, but with financial assistance readily available, she knew this was her time to seize the day.

“I have always wanted to finish, but I lacked the self-confidence to even attempt to achieve this goal,” related Sylvester. “With a lot of support from my husband, I took the plunge.”

Still the last step she needed to take, attending class, was a difficult one for Sylvester to make. Again, she found encouragement from a trusted source, her grown son. “Don’t ever be afraid to go into those rooms that you thought you would never belong in,” he told her. “You have all the goods. You have so much to bring to the table.”

With 30 years of public service experience, Sylvester couldn’t argue. Earning her EMT license after taking the required courses at Macomb, she served as a full-time firefighter/EMT for six years before being sidelined by an injury.  For the last 23 years, she’s worked at the dispatch console. Now, Sylvester wants to use her insight and experience to serve the community by working on behalf of those marginalized by society. Toward that end, her associate degree in pre-social work will also include a Certificate in Community Leadership, which is preparing her to be the change she wants to see.

Where heroes are made

Dr. (Rochelle) Zaranek (social work) has been my hero.  As one of my first professors after returning to school, her words of wisdom eased my anxieties,” said Sylvester, who also attended Wayne State University in the past. “Professor (Felicia) Bennett-Clark (political science) shared her experiences in a way that made my goals palpable.”

With her “amazing husband” of 10 years, Sylvester also operates an animal rescue service, adopting one dog, two rabbits and a snake (so far) along the way. To fund the effort, which includes getting veterinary care for pets whose owners can’t afford it, Sylvester sells homemade pop-up cards and wreaths online.

Sylvester’s only acknowledgement of her more than full life is: “I like to stay busy.” But she’s thankful she can count on husband, children, grandchildren, father and his “forever” girlfriend to help her recharge.

“My family is huge, loving, supportive, proud of who I have become and all around fantastic,” said Sylvester. “There’s truly no place like home.”