In less than three years, Paula Toler of Ernul has gone from being an unemployed textile mill worker to becoming a highly skilled, valuable machinist at Fleet Readiness Center East at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.
"I feel like pinching myself to make sure it's real," the 46-year-old Craven Community College student said.
Toler worked at the Amital textile mill in New Bern for 19 years, but was laid off in June 2006 as the company was shutting down. After losing her job, Toler was faced with a choice: get another job doing similar work or go back to school and learn some new skills.
She chose to enroll at Craven Community College.
"I did not want to be that vulnerable anymore," Toler said. "You just don't want to keep starting over. It was scary, but I did it."
She has found tremendous success in the classroom, earning a 4.0 grade point average. Toler is working at the base through the college's career experience program and is scheduled to complete her degree later this year.
She has some advice for people who need new job skills but who also have been out of the classroom for a while.
"I would tell people that although it seems scary, they should go for it," Toler said.