SANFORD — In May 2009, Shirley Rijkse was an out-of-work fifty-something when she decided it was time to enroll at Central Carolina Community College and train for a new career in business.
On July 12, a little over a year later, she stood on the stage at the Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda National Leadership Conference and accepted two first place awards. Rijkse had bested students from all over the nation in presentation and testing competitions in the subject areas of Human Resources Management and Healthcare Administration.
“I thought, somebody pinch me,” she said. “Everyone said I looked so calm accepting my awards, but it was just because I was in shock.”
About 1,7000 students from secondary schools, colleges and universities around the country gathered July 9-12 in Nashville, Tenn., for the FBLA-PBL conference and competitions. FBLA-PBL is the oldest and largest business student organization in the nation, with approximately 250,000 members. Central Carolina C.C’s chapter was established in 2006.
Rijkse is a first-year student in Human Resources Management and Accounting at the college’s Lee County Campus. She credits her instructors, advisor George Clayton, and the opportunities provided by the college’s Phi Beta Lambda chapter for enabling her to gain the knowledge and skills that laid the foundation for her success.
“For a CCCC first-year student to beat students from four-year universities at competition is huge,” she said. “It speaks volumes for the faculty here and for PBL. I feel so proud of CCCC. We have an excellent school.”
She said being a member of PBL helped her develop a business leader mentality, provided competition opportunities, and gave her the chance to network with students at other colleges and businesses.
“All that helped me see the possibilities for the future,” said Rijkse, who wants to work as a health care manager. “It is phenomenal.”
Rijkse describes herself as an “Army mom.” She and her husband, Art, have four sons, two of whom are on active duty at Fort Bragg and in Afghanistan and a daughter who is retired from the Army and married to a Special Forces soldier. She said her family supported her decision to go back to school.
“I learned that you’re never too old to make a fresh start,” she said. “This campus gave me the opportunity.”