On Aug. 17, 2005, Robert T. Pleasants learned he no longer had a job as a mechanic at the Wrangler jeans laundry facility in Luray.
A lifelong mechanic, Pleasants had spent his working days fixing whatever came his way - from cars to go-carts; heavy machinery to weed-eaters. With the layoff, Pleasants had to look somewhere else to use his skills.
But instead of searching immediately for another job, Pleasants decided to take advantage of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program under the Trade Act of 1974. The program, which is administered by the Virginia Employment Commission, provided him with the assistance needed to go back to school for new training.
Pleasants has now earned an HVAC career studies certificate through Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC), is only a couple of classes away from a second certificate, and would one day like to complete an associate's degree.
Prior to being laid off, Pleasants hadn't really ever considered returning to school. Back in high school, he barely scraped by. "I never did homework in school," he said. "I never took a book home." He dropped out of high school in his late teens and received a GED.
Although he was a little nervous before his first semester of classes began at LFCC, Pleasants soon overcame his initial jitters and began discovering the power of his potential. He made the dean's and president's lists during his time at LFCC, and now he's encouraging his 18-year-old stepdaughter to attend.
He acknowledges that being back in school at age 38, with a mortgage to pay and children to support, is far more difficult than attending college at a younger age.
Pleasants said he's found attending LFCC to be enjoyable, and his interest seems to have rubbed off on his family. He said his fiancé is now considering taking classes, and his two younger children are very aware of the time he has spent in school.
"They think it's funny that dad has homework," he said.