Changing Careers at Any Age …

(reprinted from Schenectady County Community College AlumNews, Spring 2010)

After five decades in preclinical lab research, managing clinical trials, screening drugs, and collecting and processing data, JoanDembinski ’09 traded her business suit for a chef ’s hat and began attending SCCC as a full-time student in the Culinary Arts program. She graduated in May 2009 with an Assistant Chef Certificate in Culinary Arts. Having not had enough, she is back and working on her Associate in Occupational Science degree Culinary Arts, with a Baking concentration.

Joan has been interested in cooking since she was a child at the elbow of her mother in the kitchen. Joan says she is thrilled to have the transition from a business “where people needed medicine” to one where “people need to have good nutrition and meals.” The human relations aspects of both fields excite Joan, as do the intricacies of safety and sanitation.

Retirement is not a word in her vocabulary. Going back to school at age 71 is a challenge for anyone. “The first week I felt as if a train hit me,” she said. But she added that the transition has also been inspiring. “To come to SCCC as an older person, I found and enjoyed a welcoming atmosphere. Diversity is not only cultivated at SCCC, it flourishes. My experience after 50 years away from academia keeps me focused and thankful for the time spent at a wonderful school.”

Joan shares her testimonial about her love for the Culinary Arts program. “Without the excellent training and support from the superb instructors at SCCC, I would not be continuing on this pathway. They have opened up avenues of research, and continu- ing excitement in discovering ways to prepare and present nutri- tional meals. The dedication and care in which subject matter is presented is significant. Remembering and implementing skills brings a quiet smile as I remember the words and helpful hands from a caring chef….my thanks abound!”

Now in her sixth semester, Joan has earned a 3.99 GPA. She works as a member-worker at Honest Weight, a food co-op in Albany, and at Yono’s Restaurant. Rather than taking advantage of scholarship money available to senior citizens, Joan pays her tuition and donates to the College’s scholarship fund.

“I’m enjoying my journey. Whatever the destination, it is irrelevant. Follow your dreams. Do what you love to do.” And, as her mother once told her, “never stop learning.”


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