Editor's note: This story was adapted from a post by the San Bernardino County Workforce Development Department.
Marine Corps veteran Gregory Lincoln was 59 when word came down that his IT specialist position was being eliminated. Gregory had more than 20 years of professional experience in IT and education-related fields, as well as degrees in business administration, criminal justice, and information technology. Unemployment was devastating.
“My family was facing our darkest moment ever and we had no hope,” Gregory says. “My wife and I just bought a home. I didn’t know where to turn.”
That changed when his local veterans’ center referred him to the High Desert America’s Job Center of California in Victorville. The support, encouragement, and guidance he received from his “angel crew,” as he calls them, put him on the path to success.
“I’d started thinking something was wrong with me. I was on the verge of losing my home and no jobs were coming in,” he says. “They came in and boosted my confidence when it was at its lowest level.”
His three “angels” – veterans representatives Sam McMakin and Shelly Wolfe from the California Employment Development Department, and Christine Watson from the San Bernardino County Workforce Development Department – took Gregory under their wings, aligning his experience, skills, and passion with potential career opportunities. In addition to helping him find and apply for relevant positions, they helped him stay afloat financially by resolving issues with a missing paycheck and unemployment benefits.
On learning of his lifelong desire to teach, they introduced him to Troops to Teachers, a U.S. Department of Defense program that helps transitioning service members and veterans begin new careers in education. Troops to Teachers provides counseling and referral services to help participants secure a teaching position, including guidance on meeting education and licensing requirements.
As a first step to becoming a teacher, Gregory took – and passed – the California Education Credentialing Examination. The same day he learned that he passed, he received a call offering a technology support specialist position at Sultana High School, and was formally hired three days later. Thankful to have a job in education that allows him to support his family, Gregory still hopes to land a full-time teaching position or start a charter school in the future.
Gregory says he and his family will be forever indebted to McMakin, Wolfe, Watson, and staff at the American Job Center.
“There are no words that can express my pure and total gratitude for those three people,” he said. “I had a sense that (they) genuinely cared about what was happening to my family and I. They changed my life, my perspective, and perception of government agencies, and continued to provide me hope when I had none myself.”