CLEVELAND (NBC26) — If Marla Payne were asked 25 years ago if she could see herself becoming a welder one day, she would have said no.
After a debilitating car accident left her with a disability, Payne has been fighting multiple medical battles for 25 years. She had to give up her career in law enforcement, and eventually went to work part-time at a fabrics and craft store, where she discovered her love for art. When she heard about Lakeshore Technical College's welding program, she wasn't sure if it would be for her.
“It was an underlying fear because I’m thinking, welding, big steel bars and, you know, heavy dirty work," said Payne. "I’m like, I gotta give it a try.”
She soon discovered she not only enjoyed it; she was also very good at it.
“I was hooked," said Payne. "It was so neat. I was scared and intimidated, I’m not going to lie to you, but it was so neat to be able to face those fears and look and say, ‘Oh, I can do this.’”
Despite having a broken finger for nine months out of the one-year program, Payne says the hardest part was just learning something she had never done before.
“I believe where I’m right where I’m supposed to be," she said. "And I believe that everything that’s taken place in my life, instead of pouring over all the things that went wrong, I look at what can I do next.”
It’s important for the college to accommodate and include women and students with disabilities, said Dr. Paul Carlsen, president of LTC.
“Our faculty meet every single student where they are where ever they are in their life and their academic progression and work to meet those individual students needs," he said. "Women are underrepresented in the field and we know that to create a diverse workforce we’d like more women like Marla to graduate from lakeshore technical college and work in our community.”
If there’s one thing Payne wants people to take away from her story, it’s that anyone can do anything they put their mind to.
“The only thing that holds you back is you," Payne said. "The only thing that hold anybody back is their attitude. You have to at least try it, and you have to be able to give everything you can, and that’s what I promised myself. I’m gonna give everything I got to every opportunity I can gather so that I know I did the best I could while I was here.”
With her passion for art and her new skill set in welding, the multi-media artist hopes to find work making sculptures or yard art. She just wants to make unusual and fun things that the community can enjoy, said Payne.