As the 61-year-old grandmother walked across the stage at commencement, a large contingent of family and friends jumped out of their seats, hollered and snapped pictures with their cameras and cell phones.
It was graduation day and Helen Foreman-Hines had finally achieved her lifelong dream of earning her bachelor’s degree in labor studies from National Labor College.
After years of being a single parent, devoting all her energy to her family, her work and her union brothers and sisters, Helen decided it was finally her chance to finish her degree.
“I had no more worries; I knew it was my time,” said Helen.
Helen’s 13- and 20-year-old grandsons were part of the group of 20 family members who supported Helen as she accepted her diploma from Dean Daniel Katz and President Emeritus John Sweeney on graduation day.
Helen was proud to be a positive role model to her grandsons of just how important it is to get a degree.
From the Field to the Classroom
In 1989 Helen started working at SEIU 1199, the 350,000 member strong local of health care workers in a range of setting including hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies, freestanding clinics and other healthcare settings including homecare.
I know that directly helping people is where I feel most like myself. I have a strong desire to give people the tools that will make them better than how they originally came to me.
Working her way from the ground up, Helen spent time as an administrative organizer, vice president and is now the political action project director.
This quote from Maya Angelou sums up Helen’s theory of how she interacts with her members:
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Because of her experience in the labor movement, Helen was able to earn 30 credits with the Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) program at NLC. With PLA, you can earn up to one year of college credits by demonstrating college-level learning.
Raising Hell From North Carolina to New York City
Although Helen has lived and worked in the New York area for decades, her path into the labor movement originally began in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, where she watched her aunt deal with a disruption in the J.P. Stevens and Co. plant where they made towels and bed linens. The organizing of that plant inspired the 1979 blockbuster “Norma Rae” featuring Sally Field.
Helen was so inspired by her aunt that she made a promise to herself: “I’m going to New York and I’m going to raise hell– and I promised my God I’d make it happen. I’m a firm believer that if you never share it, you never know that you really had it.”
Too Late to Learn? Not with National Labor College!
Even after a lifetime in the labor movement, Helen learned new paths to achieve success in her job:
At NLC I learned different ways of doing things. When you sit in a classroom with people from all walks of life who understand and listen and hear differently, it allows you to process what you’ve been doing and see how you need to change what you do to achieve your goal.
Is it finally “your time” to complete your degree? Learn how NLC is tailor-made for working adults at www.NLC.edu/Start.