PENDLETON --- Donna Kirby left the workforce in 1982 to start her family.  For 12 years she had worked as a legal secretary -- typing an impressive 150 words per minute --   first on an electric typewriter and later using Word Perfect 5.0 on her first computer.  

So when a newly-divorced Kirby decided to get back into the workforce, she quickly realized the Information Revolution had passed her by.  She held an associate degree in secretarial science from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia, and a bachelor's in education from the University of Georgia, but after sending out at least 50 resumes, she says, "No one would hire me."

An ad for the Back to Work 50 plus program caught her eye when she received a brochure in the mail from Tri-County Technical College's Corporate and Community Education Division.  It highlighted an AARP-funded program for job candidates, or unemployed persons, who are age 50 and up, to find work. The initiative is BACK TO WORK 50+ and is focused on the more than three million workers age 50 and older who are looking for full-time work, according to the AARP website.

The AARP Foundation's grant targets the needs of low income, older people and has a limited number of scholarships for training in select programs (administrative office support, including medical office and computer technician occupations) that leads to in-demand jobs, according to Sandra Strickland, Tri-County's program manager for the 50+ grant.

"This grant addresses a critical issue with individuals over the age of 50 - obtaining a job with a sustainable wage," Strickland said.


Kirby attended the meeting and after being accepted into the program, she entered the administrative office support classes.

In the beginning, it was difficult, said Kirby, who had been out of the classroom for three decades.  She knew how to e-mail and she had been on Facebook and was an excellent typist.  "But I didn't know how to open Word or PowerPoint or Excel, much less operate them.  My daughter had learned PowerPoint in the 7th grade," she said.

Kirby says she doubted herself and her capabilities often -- feeling overwhelmed and defeated, but with encouragement from her family and Strickland, she says, "I made the decision to be successful.  I said I won't let this defeat me. I knew it was my way back into the workforce."  After five months of classes, from 8 - 12 every day, she successfully earned her certificate

"The AARP Back to Work 50+ grant opened doors for me," she said.  Her perseverance, top-notch work and a recommendation from a former employer landed her a job as assistant administrative support specialist with the Family Court Office in Greenville County.  "It's a terrific job," said Kirby.  "I couldn't do it without the administrative office support certificate.  Every application I filled out asked if I was proficient in Word, PowerPoint and Excel and I could say yes," she said. 

"I love being back in the workforce and I look forward to getting up and going to work. I like the people and the work.  I have my dream job.  I am blessed beyond measure because I can combine my experience as a legal secretary and the administrative office training," she said. 

"The folks at Tri-County are very positive and encouraging," she said.  "They are there if you need help," said the Easley resident. 

"The AARP Back to Work 50+ program works.  When I went back to Tri-County to visit after getting my job, there were three times as many folks in the classes as when I was there.  I'm living proof that the program works." 

For more information about the Back to Work 50+ program, call (864) 646-1700 or visit