Jean Lamb of Cranston gave up a good career to take care of a sick family member, and in doing so found a new calling.
Lamb, 50, worked for 30 years in corporate and academic arenas and nonprofit sectors, jobs that were as fulfilling as lucrative, but in June 2007, she resigned to devote her time to caring for her elderly aunt.
Lamb’s father died suddenly in 2007 and her mother died 15 years earlier. This affected her decision to become a caregiver. “I never had the opportunity to care for my mom or dad in their later years, and that’s something we’re supposed to do,” she said.
“My aunt was very, very sick and she was pleading with me to get someone to help her,” Lamb said. “I just felt it in my heart that I needed to take care of my aunt.”
Lamb planned to return to work eventually but she could not find a new job in this bad economy. “I figured, ‘I have 30-plus years of experience, I can get a job,’” she said. “But I couldn’t find one.”
Touched by her experience with her aunt, Lamb decided to enroll at the Community College of Rhode Island in human services with a concentration in gerontology, the study of aging and the elderly.
She began taking classes in the Spring 2008 semester while working part time as a waitress and caregiver. Lamb temporarily found herself a double caregiver when her husband needed emergency abdominal surgery during her first semester. He has had five operations since then and had to give up his job as a carpenter.
Lamb took care of her husband, her aunt and managed a household including her two children and three stepchildren while attending classes and maintaining a 3.87 grade point average. At one point or another, Lamb and all of her children were all enrolled at CCRI together.
Lamb’s husband, unable to return to his old job, recently enrolled at CCRI and will begin classes in the fall.
Lamb, a Human Services major, graduated from CCRI as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society and the Psi Beta Honor Society for Psychology. She also is an Honors Program graduate and received several awards and scholarships.
She has been accepted to URI to continue her study of gerontology and eventually wants to earn a master’s degree in public administration to develop and implement policies and programs for the elderly.
Lamb’s educational success represents the fruition of a dream she has had for most of her life.
When she graduated from St. Xavier’s Academy in 1978, she immediately wanted to go to URI to become a teacher but decided to spend one year working to raise money for her tuition. In the meantime she found steady employment, got married and raised a family. “That one year turned into me finally getting my degree 30 years later,” Lamb said.
She credits CCRI with much of her success. “CCRI has been the bedrock of why I have been this successful,” she said. “Everyone at the college wants you to succeed. Failure is not something they want for you, as long as you give back. It’s a very reciprocal environment.”
She added that she is excited to be a CCRI alumna and happy to have completed one of her lifelong goals.
“I’ve traveled to Europe, I raised my kids, I bought my own home, but this is something I’ve always wanted to do,” she said.