Michelle Browne
To Michelle Browne, 38, education is everything.

After she graduated high school, she started going to college but was never able to finish because she had to leave school early to care for her grandmother, who was diagnosed with cancer. Browne's grandmother died about a year later and Browne entered the workforce.

She started out at an entry level position at the International Health Racquet and Sports Club Association and worked her way up. She worked for Boston ABCD and then a financial services company.

"While I was there I wanted to finish my education but there was no money and times were hard," says Browne. "But I refused to give up my hunger for education."

Browne next joined Donham & Sweeney Architects and eventually became the director of administration and finance. But the recent economic downturn impacted Browne as it impacted so many others: She was laid off.

Browne says that she thought about going to school but she couldn't afford it. "I had mounting bills, I was defaulting on my student loans. There was no other option for school," she says.

But the stimulus program changed all that. Over at Boston ABCD, an anti poverty

Michelle Browne Speaking at Her Elder Care Graduation
agency, Claire Shephard, the director of LearningWorks, the agency's workforce development center, had been dreaming of implementing a career training program for years but never had the funds. Once the Recovery Act was enacted, she realized she would be able to make her dream come true.

Boston ABCD received approximately $28 million in stimulus grants, with over $9.5 million as a Community Services Block grant. Shephard was able to use some of those funds to create New Careers, a training program with certificates granted in Early Childhood Education, Community Health, Elder Care and Medical Office Technology. The goal was to prepare these students for careers in these fields and, by partnering with Urban College, to allow them to finish their Associates Degree in Human Services.

For Browne, the Elder Care program was also a dream come true. She loved caring for her grandmother and was raised to respect elders. "The way I was raised, you do everything they say," she says.

Michelle Browne at her Elder Care Graduation
Browne just graduated from the Elder Care program and plans on continuing her studies. "I won't stop till I get a PhD," she says. "I want an education and that's it. Without an education you can't do anything."

Browne's is the first graduating class in the Elder Care program and she believes that this group reveals the real face of the low income population in the United States. "Just because people live below the poverty line, it doesn't mean they don't want to achieve and accomplish or that we're taking the system for granted," she says. "These are all different types of people."

Browne also plans on looking for a job in her new field. She is eager to start working with elders. "My grandmother used to say, once a man, twice a child. Now I understand that."