Can you imagine yourself enrolled in college even as you inch toward retirement age? How about helping to solve a crime at the same time?
Well, here at Minnesota School of Business-Richfield (MSB), we have one such student!Elyn Kirchner is taking advantage of MSB’s Senior Citizen Scholarship program, which allows individuals 62 and older to take up to four free courses.*
Elyn decided to enroll at MSB soon after she was laid off from her long-time career at the Star Tribune. Elyn worked in ad production for the newspaper for 18 years before she was let go.
Elyn decided to think about taking graphic design classes.
“I’d passed by MSB so many times, I decided to come and meet with Admissions,” she said.
Elyn didn’t even know about the scholarship program—it was her representative who suggested she consider it.
Why pursue additional education after a long and rich career?
“It’s self-improvement and it keeps me off the streets,” Elyn said.
Elyn said she would recommend that anyone in her stage of life take college classes.
“I’m a big proponent of lifelong learning. Neither of my parents graduated high school but my mother was an avid reader. She knew so much about nutrition and health—you could pit her against any nurse,” she said.
Elyn has enjoyed taking a variety of courses. She said that her favorite classes have been in writing.
“That surprised me. I really wanted to take graphic arts classes, but there was too much drawing—I’m not an artist—it’s the way of the world now,” she said.
During Elyn’s career in ad production and printing, the world of design was separate from typesetting—her foray.
“It’s all rolled into one now. I worked in copy. I don’t think you can learn to have an eye for art and design. What I used to do used to be a trade. Now, they let the computer handle it. There are many old typesetters who can look at a publication and identify the typeface,” she said.
While graphic design hasn’t been Elyn’s cup of tea, she has taken veterinary technician, communication and beginning computer courses, among others.
In addition to her classes, Elyn spends her time volunteering. She likes that she can use the skills she is honing in college to serve in her capacity as a volunteer.
“I think it important to communicate. I can use my writing skills to edit my church’s newsletter, create flyers or informational sheets,” she said.
Elyn has also been taking care of the library fish, Flash, for some time. But it was in a different volunteer position that proved Elyn might have made a second career out of private investigation.
Elyn was on the board of directors for an animal rescue organization called Wildlife Rehabilitate and Release (WRR) when she received a telephone call. The caller said that he had seen a donation box and brochures for WRR at a store recently. This puzzled Elyn; she and the other board members knew nothing about a donation box.
She contacted the owner of the store, who said the donation box had been there for about three years. Someone would collect the contents—$60 to $70—every two weeks.
So Elyn contacted the police. The detective she spoke to assured her the case would be resolved before the month was up. Thankfully for Elyn and WRR, there was a name and telephone number on the bottom of the donation box. Police had the store owner call the number on the box and set up a time for pickup.
When the woman arrived at the store, police were hiding in the bushes! When the suspect emerged from the store with the contents from the box ($84, it turns out), officers nabbed her.
The woman, a former longtime volunteer with WRR, was charged with misdemeanor theft. Elyn went to four court dates to make sure she could speak on behalf of WRR. Finally, the woman pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to probation, community service and restitution.
Elyn used her writing skills to pen a victim-impact statement to the court. She expressed how the amount of money taken over the course of three years could have been put to use at WRR. She calculated that if the woman took home an average of $140 each month, the total amount taken was nearly $6,000.
Because of Elyn’s efforts, the amount of restitution that must be paid back is $5,800 instead of the original $84.
“Writing classes gave me the confidence to express myself. I should have asked [instructor] Portia Heller to help—she would have knocked the judge’s socks off,” said Elyn.
Sounds like you did a pretty good job of that yourself, Elyn.
*All fees, books, and other charges will apply.