When Anthony Cardamone, 20, made the decision to go to college at Moraine Park, he never expected he’d be in the same classroom as his mother, Lynne.
Nor did Lynne Cardamone expect that at age 45 she’d be laid off from her position at Amity/Rolfs distribution center in West Bend, and enrolling at Moraine Park to start a new career.
Life, however, throws us curve balls and when it does, you’ve got to make the best of it. That’s what Lynne has done and in the process it has brought her and her son closer.
“Being in school with Anthony is pretty neat,” said Lynne Cardamone. “It's interesting to see him catch on to things faster ... Us older folks, I think we have more fear and aren't as quick. There is a difference between the generations – I saw that right away when I came in last year. But we have all become good friends with each other. They help us, we help them. Anthony and the other kids really don't shy away from us because we're older. It's made for great dynamics in class.”
“It’s interesting for sure,” said Anthony of being enrolled in the same program as his mom, “but it’s nice to be able to help each other. Being in the shop together helps me the most – if I have a question about the machine I can ask her if she’s around.”
Representatives of the Workforce Development Center spoke with employees who had been laid off from Amity/Rolfs. Upon discovering she was eligible for a Taxpayer Relief Act (TRA)-funded program that would finance a two-year degree, Lynne visited Moraine Park several times and talked with counselor Kathy VanDemark. Discovering a strong interest in CNC/Tool and Die Technologies, Lynne met with Tim Clemens, one of the program’s instructors. After observing Clemens’ classes she knew this was what she wanted to do.
“I explained I had no background in this field, and Tim explained that they teach it from the ground up,” she recalled. “So I enrolled.”
While the program is a nontraditional occupation for women, that never bothered Lynne. “I grew up working with my dad all the time doing woodworking,” she said. “I've always done nontraditional-type work – I've never been an office-type worker. When you take a part out of a machine that you just made, that's the enjoyment. You start with a print or an idea, draw it with the software, toolpath it to create a program, load the program and your tools, set everything up correctly, then cut. There is a lot involved with all of that so when you're holding the finished product in your hand and it's all correct, it's a great feeling.”
Anthony is in his first year of the program, attending classes and continuing to work part-time at Culver’s. Having a technical college with a CNC program close by was a benefit, he said. During his senior year at West Bend West, he took a machining class in which he used manual lathes and mills. “I found working with them was fairly easy,” said Anthony.
Likewise, he enjoys using the machines in Moraine Park’s CNC lab. While the high-tech equipment was initially intimidating, he now feels comfortable running them and using different machines and controls. “I find adapting to different software and machines a challenge, but after figuring out the basics of each they are rather simple,” he said.
While the Cardamones aren’t in the same classes together, they do talk shop. “He's learning new machines and controls that I've already used and it's great when he stops me for help,” said Lynne. “The instructors also like it when the second-year students help out the first-year students. It's good practice for us.”
“Anthony's confidence is starting to show in my classes,” said CNC/Tool & Die Technologies program instructor Tim Clemens. “Lynne is in her fourth semester and Anthony is in his second. They have this family bond that I see as they joke with each other in passing and they help each other when needed. They both are so refreshing to see in my classes.”
Lynne and Anthony do get some ribbing about being mother and son, but Lynne said it’s all in good fun. The two have also waged a friendly little competition. Lynne has maintained a 3.8 GPA in the CNC program and playfully challenged her son to keep up with her. “So far Anthony is right there with me – we'll have a better idea by the end of this semester,” she said. “We've helped each other and I've given him tips on how certain classes work.” But, she added, Anthony hasn’t needed a lot of help. “He's really bright and smart and has caught on and done well.”
“She’s beating me,” Anthony joked.
The rest of Lynne’s family gives two thumbs up to her pursuit of a degree and new career. “When I first decided to go back to school, all three of them said I would do just great,” she said. Husband Tony is an electrician at Johnson Controls in West Bend. “He was my biggest supporter. He said this is my chance … Now that [the kids] are older, it's a good time to go back to school.”
Daughter Amanda, 17, is impressed by her mother’s new skills. “When I brought home my first real project” – a set of aluminum and brass coasters in a holder – “she thought that was coolest thing,” said Lynne.
Lynne will graduate May 22 and is keeping tabs on the Wisconsin Technical College System’s TechConnect site for jobs. She was one of three women featured in a story, Reinventing Themselves Through Education, in Moraine Park’s 2008-09 Annual Report. To view it, visit morainepark.edu/annual report.
To learn more about educational opportunities at Moraine Park, visit morainepark.edu or call an outreach specialist at 1-800-472-4554.