WARREN - Carolyn Andrews said her experience working in municipal court served as a stepping stone to her current volunteer position as a GED instructor.
Andrews, a 2013 Community Star, launched the GED program at the Warren Family Mission about a year ago and has been teaching classes there since.
The endeavor joins a long list of community activities and volunteer opportunities Andrews has participated in. She said hearing the testimonies of people who had participated in programs at the mission sparked her desire to help.
Her students include individuals who participate in programs offered at the mission and the mission's Hannah's House.
"Working in the courts one thing I heard over and over from people is that they weren't able to overcome their addictions, whatever they might be, until they became involved with the mission," she explained. "I wanted to learn more. I wanted to find out more, see what I could do to help and if there was a place for me. It's because it's a Christ-centered ministry. That's why it's so successful. I saw how important that was and I wanted to be part of that and of helping people."
Andrews contacted the mission and from there developed the GED program.
Warren Family Mission, Howland Rotary, Central Christian Church, Upton House, March of Dimes, Red Cross, Mobile Meals, among other organizations; former member of the Peace Corps serving in the Ukraine from 2000 to 2002.
"We were so excited when Carolyn contacted us," said Michelle Beauchene, development director at the mission. "She has made such a difference already. She has invested so much of her time and her own resources. She's an amazing person."
Beauchene is one of the people who nominated Andrews as a Tribune Chronicle Community Star. In her letter of nomination, Beauchene wrote: "Carolyn Andrews puts numerous hours, dedication, and support in to this program. She goes above and beyond to help her students feel esteemed and special. She never missed a class. She supplies ALL the materials, books and supplies to the participants. She is one of the most selfless women I have ever met."
Andrews credits Central Christian Church, where she is active in various outreach efforts, and Howland Rotary with helping her get the GED program off the ground by providing seed money. She said Howland schools served as a resource, answering her questions.
The efforts are paying off. Recently, the first two students to take the GED test learned they passed it and received their certificates.
"I think I was more excited than they were," she said. "It was wonderful. I think it does so much for someone, it boosts their self esteem. It might not be the greatest thing they do, but when you think, here is someone who only went to the eighth grade and now they have a GED. That's an accomplishment. That's something."
Andrews earned a bachelor's degree in education from Kent State University and a master's degree from Central Michigan. She worked at Trumbull Memorial Hospital for 36 years, retiring as director of education. She was in the Peace Corps, serving in the Ukraine from 2000 to 2002.
"I learned about the court system there and realized I really didn't know much about our own court system here," she explained.
To learn, she volunteered with Warren Municipal Court for three years. She then accepted a job as a victim advocate, which she did for six years.
"I knew there were people with different backgrounds from mine, and I knew about the different lives people have," she said. "I still find it quite interesting how many of the people in my GED classes only went so far in school, to the eighth grade. That surprised me. In eighth grade you're still a kid. When I was in eighth grade I never thought about not going to school. And I know that not all people grow up in great homes or have a lot of support."
Andrews said one of her greatest challenges is going back and studying geometry and algebra again.
As one of her students, Menno Hostetler said he'd glad Andrews made the effort.
"She's wonderful," he said. "I'm so glad she did this, that she's here, willing to help. It takes a very special person. She's that person."
Now in its 12th year, the Community Star program is sponsored by the Tribune Chronicle and Trumbull 100 and celebrates the volunteers who have had a significant influence on Trumbull County.