When 33-year-old Brittany Lail found herself unemployed during the pandemic, the Dallas resident made a choice to try to better her career.
She decided to go back to school, taking courses in paralegal technology at Gaston College.
She expects her decision to go back to school will help her professional advancement.
Lail is part of a trend of people trying to better themselves during a period of economic unrest partly caused by the pandemic.
"I worked as a dispatcher at a truck company before. I left on bad terms, but quickly realized how dispensable employees are when things get crazy," said the single mother of two boys, ages 16 and 9.
"My father was in law enforcement, so I always had an interest in law. I decided to go back to school to better myself," added Lail.
Lail went back to school in the fall of 2020.
"Paralegals assist attorneys in substantial legal work," Lail said.
Now, Lail is a paralegal intern at Hometown Counsel in Gastonia and expects to graduate in May with an associate degree.
Like Lail, Jesse Greene, 31, a resident of Gastonia and a Navy veteran, went back to school to get a better career.
Greene was in the service for two years, shortly after obtaining a bachelor's degree in the science of culinary arts from Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte.
He was later forced to leave the Navy as a result of an injury to his Achilles tendon.
Though he enjoyed cooking, his passion was no longer in the culinary arts, and Greene began looking at different careers.
"I had to have several surgeries so I had to retire and started working with my dad in construction. He was always afraid of electricity and made me handle anything that had to deal with that but I enjoyed it," said Greene, who is also a single parent, raising a toddler son.
As a child, Greene said he would take apart his electronics just to see their components. His passion for electrical things returned during quarantine, pushing him to consider a career in the electric field.
"I had a lot of time on my hands and decided to go back to school in the fall of 2020," Greene said, "I am very interested in going into the electronic car field, I want to be a part of what makes a car run."
Greene will graduate in May with two associate degrees in computer science and electronics engineering, however; he plans to come back in the fall to obtain another associate in electronics and robotics.
"I want to learn as much as I can. I enjoy the engineering of robotics and I think that it has a lot to do with what I want to do, so I am going back to dig in deeper into the field," Greene said.
In the meantime, Greene continues to make a living by helping out his father with construction until the time to switch jobs comes.
Beatriz Guerrero can be reached at 704-869-1828 or on Twitter@BeatrizGue_.
This article originally appeared on The Gaston Gazette: Students at Gaston College discuss why they went back to school