People take many paths through life and often find themselves in very different places. For CLS graduates Aline Ludwig, Candice Hildenbrand and Michele Taylor their roads led to the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City.
When Aline Ludwig imagined her future, she never would have guessed she’d be working for the YMCA and helping develop her community. After getting married at a young age, Aline dropped out of college and went to work.
“I had three children by the time I was 30 and was a stay-at-home mom homeschooling my children. I did work as a typist, proofreader and editor for college students, helped write resumes and created commissioned art in order to generate additional income. Whenever I could afford to, I took college classes with the hope of one day obtaining my degree. This added up to 95 credit hours from eight colleges and universities by the time I was 45.”
Fortunately, Ludwig heard about the flexible online degree programs CLS offered as unexpected life events started to pile up. Divorced at 47 and making less than $10 an hour, Ludwig was determined she needed to decide how she was going to make a new life for herself.
In the one year since graduating, I have received a promotion, a raise, built a house and have started retirement investment plans.
“After weighing my options I contacted CLS and submitted transcripts. Luckily, OU accepted all 95 credit hours I had acquired, and I would be able to work toward earning my Bachelor of Arts in Administrative Leadership.”
Ludwig had already been passed over for a promotion previously due to lack of a higher education and once she decided that the OU CLS program was something she could manage with her time and finances she took the leap forward.
“I told our executive director that I had enrolled in the Administrative Leadership program. He thought it would be a good fit for the YMCA and the rest is history.”
Earning her degree has enabled Ludwig to pursue her dream job and career with the YMCA and has given her the confidence that she can “catch up” to her career peers even though she had a much later start than most of them.
“In the one year since graduating, I have received a promotion, a raise, built a house and have started retirement investment plans. I am certain that the future can only hold better things, opportunities for professional and personal growth and financial security. Having achieved all that I have in the past five years, I’m excited for what the future holds!”
Candice Hillenbrand came from a family that valued education. Both her mother and sister are OU graduates and before finding the YMCA Hillenbrand had just started a graduate degree program in English.
“My mother was a high school English teacher for 42 years, and her love of education inspired me to also go into teaching. Once I began my work with the Y, my desire to teach students transformed into a desire to train adults. I was immediately enthralled with the Y: the culture, the mission, and the work was something I truly found a passion doing.”
As she progressed within the organization and became a director overseeing a department of 20 people, most of whom were older than her, Hillenbrand wanted to find a way to improve her leadership skills while earning a degree to help forward her career with the YMCA.
“I wanted to be a better visionary, participant, and teammate, so I began my search for a program that could help me build those skills.”
Throughout the program, Hillenbrand was challenged both mentally and emotionally but feels it was worth it.
“My favorite stories about getting my degree involve all the things that used to make me cry. I say that with some humor, but truthfully, I was working full time at the Y, had one child in diapers and one starting kindergarten, and I worked as a photographer on the weekends.”
Even though her classroom was her living room, bedroom, or office, Hillenbrand felt connected to the work she was doing and it was a tremendous moment for her to walk across the stage in May of 2012 with a Master of Arts in Administrative Leadership.
The impact of going through this entire education process has been priceless for me and has taught me that whatever you truly desire to achieve, is only possible if you believe in yourself, make the sacrifices, and accept the help of those around you.
Michele Taylor has seen a lot of changes during her time with the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City. Originally joining the organization in 2000, Taylor came from the Dallas, Texas YMCA association where she had worked since 1988. Now the executive director for the greater Oklahoma City association, Taylor has 11 individual sites and programs under her supervision.
“As executive director I really do enjoy all aspects of my job. I’m given the opportunity every day to make a difference in someone’s life. Sitting down with members and building relationships is part of what we do all day. It’s fun, interesting, and rewarding and the education I earned with CLS played a good part in getting me where I am today.”
Taylor graduated from CLS in 2006 with a Bachelor of Liberal Studies, and like most non-traditional students, then and now, she had to find a balance between work, family, and academics. Her challenges were daunting, including working 50 or more hours per week with the YMCA and staying up late into the night to finish assignments.
“Once I start something, I am very determined to finish it. Encouragement from my children and friends helped a lot. Completing my degree has helped me be a better manager and supervisor in addition to boosting my confidence in my decision-making capabilities.”
Having worked for the YMCA for 25 years Taylor has contributed to innumerable causes and helped countless people through her charitable work, but she admits retirement is looking pretty good to her.
“I may retire soon, but I won’t stop helping my community and volunteering my time, and I’ll probably set my own hours.”