Keeping it in the (human services) family

It took Silena Kester a few attempts to find the right fit at Ivy Tech Northeast, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The first time she enrolled, her daughter Zoi (pronouned “ZO-ee”) Hillenberg, now 19, was a first-grader. Silena started as a nursing major, and she was one of the best in the class at the book work, she remembers. But A&P–anatomy and physiology–got to her. With three young kids, Silena didn’t have the time she needed to memorize all the material.

So she switched to paralegal studies.

Silena Kester, standing, and her daughter Zoi Hillenberg. Silena graduated with an associate degree in human services from Ivy Tech Northeast in 2011; Zoi just started the program this semester.

Silena Kester, standing, and her daughter Zoi Hillenberg. Silena graduated with an associate degree in human services from Ivy Tech Northeast in 2011; Zoi just started the program this semester.

“I didn’t want to be a factory rat,” she says. “I watched my mom do it for years, and I didn’t want to do it.”

She graduated with her associate degree at the top of her class, but her unwillingness to move made it difficult to find a job, she says. She found an unrelated job at a company that closed in 2009, so she gave Ivy Tech Northeast another try–this time in human services.

“There was no doubt in my mind at that point,” says Silena, of Waterloo, Ind. “It was human services.”

Silena earned her associate degree in 2011 and her bachelor’s from Trine University in 2012. Today, she is working on her master’s degree online at Boston University and hopes to graduate in 2017. She is also working at the Indiana Professional Management Group, though she plans to one day open her own group home for those who have aged out of foster care.

And, she hopes, she’ll one day be able to hire her daughter, Zoi, who graduated from DeKalb High School in June 2014 and started at Ivy Tech Northeast in human services in August. One day, Silena says, she hopes to run the company with Zoi, who wants to go into counseling.

Zoi plans to graduate in two years, but she’s not sure if her coursework will take longer; she is due to deliver her son, Bou (pronounced “BO”), in March and plans to take online classes in spring 2015.

“It’s interesting to learn,” Zoi says of her course work. “It helps me in my profession now, the clients that I have.”

Zoi works with developmentally disabled clients through Community Living, which helps its clients become self-sufficient.

Silena has experienced human services classes at three different schools now, but she touts Ivy Tech as providing the best education.

“I think every person who goes into human services needs to start at Ivy Tech,” says Silena, who points out that even some master’s-level classes review things she learned at Ivy Tech Northeast. “I went to Trine with some people who didn’t have the same fundamentals I did, and they struggled more than I did.”

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