Rory Forster was an esthetician and hairstylist until medical issues forced them out of their chosen career. Now, they are training to work in the medical field thanks to the Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant.
The Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant is a relatively new state financial aid tool designed to help non-traditional age students seek a college education in subjects that are in high demand throughout the state. Students must be 25 or older or, if younger than 25, have been out of school for two years or more. Also, students must not have a bachelor’s degree and must not exceed certain income thresholds.
For Rory Forster, Fast Track was a lifeline to a new career. After graduating from Seymour High School in 2006, Rory started college at a local four-year university, but, at the time, traditional college didn’t work out for them. After working odd jobs for a few years, Rory enrolled in cosmetology school and then esthetics school. Rory earned their licenses and worked in the field for a short time, but they faced a setback.
“I developed fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel syndrome and could no longer cut hair,” Rory said.
Forced to change careers, Rory earned a job in the in-home healthcare industry, working with elderly patients and special needs adults and children. However, as their disability progressed, they had to re-evaluate their situation. Rory enrolled at OTC in Fall 2019.
“It’s hard having to start all over,” Rory said. “If it weren’t for Fast Track, I don’t know what I would have done.”
Rory recently completed the requirements for a Biological Clinical Sciences degree and earned a Medical Coding certificate. They will continue for the 2022-23 school year and complete an Associate degree in Health Information Technology, which Fast Track covers. Plus, while at OTC, Rory’s been highly involved in campus life. They work in the Disability Support Services office as a student mentor and served as an officer for two terms with Phi Theta Kappa — the International Honor Society for students at two-year institutions.
“I have a unique perspective on life and the workforce and the journey for non-traditional students,” Rory said. “My fiancée would like to return to school, and I am encouraging him to use Fast Track.”
After graduation, Rory plans to work in the field of health information technology for several years. They would eventually like to earn their master’s degree and return to OTC to teach. If it weren’t for Fast Track, they’d be stuck with few opportunities to change their future.
“Fast Track is the golden ticket,” Rory said. “The journey I’ve been on the last few years has been incredible. I have opportunities I never thought I’d have at 34 years old.”