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News & Events

News & Event

Time to Start Over

It was the phone call no one wants.  The day after her son graduated from high school, LaGracia Guice-Williams received a call from her employer, a funeral home. She was told not to come in to her job as director the next day. 

LaGracia Guice-WilliamsIt was the phone call no one wants. 

The day after her son graduated from high school, LaGracia Guice-Williams received a call from her employer, a funeral home. She was told not to come in to her job as director the next day. 

“That was how they let me go after ten and a half years,” she said. “It had never happened to me before. It was a shock.” 

“One day you go from being employed and the next day you’re not,” she added. “I had to really buckle down.” 

At a time when economic conditions have made it even more difficult for displaced workers to get by, LaGracia shares that she was “one of the lucky ones,” because she did have some savings and was able to make mortgage payments through the first of the year. 

But it was scary. 

“I was 52 years old at the time and I’m thinking, ‘what am I going to do?’ You hear all the stories of how difficult it is for older people to start over. I had a kid getting ready to go to college and the other one was just two years behind. I had a mortgage,” she said. LaGracia had reinvented herself in the past. 

In 1997, her husband passed away from cancer. After being a stay-at-home mom for ten years, she became a licensed funeral director. This time, she started applying for jobs, but also looked through class offerings at Great Oaks Career Campuses. 

She spotted a three-month training session for health unit coordinators. With help from the dislocated worker program of the Southwest Ohio Region Workforce Investment Board, LaGracia found herself back in the classroom within a month. 

She was nervous. 

A 1977 graduate of Wilmington College, it had been awhile since she had been in class. But she found the atmosphere supportive. She said Great Oaks makes every effort to help its students succeed. 

For example, they’ll help students find child care, provide tutoring and interview coaching. Students get job search help, with hospitals even coming to Great Oaks to meet program graduates. 

“If you fail at Great Oaks, it’s your own fault,” LaGracia said. 

Six months after losing her job, LaGracia became a health unit coordinator at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in the rehabilitation unit. Her position involves supporting the nurses on her unit by taking phone calls, ordering supplies and admitting and discharging patients. 

She loves her job and being on a career path where her skills are needed. 

Since Children’s has tuition reimbursement, she’s considering getting a master’s degree. “We have been very fortunate to have gotten LaGracia as a member of our team,” said her supervisor, Adrienne Martin, Clinical Director for A4C1 Rehabilitation. “She brings experience from a previous profession and integrates it into her new one.” 

“Getting laid off was traumatic,” LaGracia said. “But I couldn’t have had a better outcome.” 

LaGracia benefited from the Great Oaks program which is under the umbrella of the Health Careers Collaborative of Greater Cincinnati. Its mission is to establish a pool of excellent health care workers and meet the needs of health care employers. 

Following this model and its success, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation created the Greater Cincinnati Workforce Network to help fill jobs that are in demand and help adults get the training they need to be able to do these jobs. Besides health care, the Workforce Network is focusing on the construction and advanced manufacturing sectors. Read more at

Originally published in the 2009 Annual Report