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Cultivating a new career
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Photo: Michael McPeters
Juli Hurley
Photo: Michael McPeters
Ms. Hurley explain the steps of composting during her Vegetable Gardening Class that was held in November.
Photo: Michael McPeters
Ms. Hurley demonstrates for students Amy Brooks, right, and Shawna Cassidy, left, during her Vegetable Gardening Class.
COAL VALLEY -- Juli and Pat Hurley and their 9-year-old daughter share more than food at the dinner table.

They make it a point to discuss what they did that day. At the dinner table one evening in August 2010, Juli Hurley surprised her family by announcing that she had enrolled in horticulture classes at Black Hawk College.

Ms. Hurley and her husband had agreed that, when she became pregnant, she would stay at home until their daughter started school, then she probably would return to the same kind of jobs she had before.

After graduating from Moline High School in 1988, an aunt helped her get a job doing clerical work at an insurance company. Similar jobs followed her graduation from the former American Institute of Commerce with a certificate as a legal secretary.

Ms. Hurley's last job, before she quit to raise her daughter, was at a company that sells industrial equipment and supplies. In addition to clerical work, she managed inventory, pulled orders, worked in shipping and receiving and worked in customer service.

"I enjoyed the work," Ms. Hurley said. "I was good at what I did, and I liked the people. However, about six months before my daughter started kindergarten, instead of looking at the help-wanted ads, I kept thinking this was an opportunity for me to make a change in my life. I wanted to do something I loved and that I could share with others, but I didn't know what that was."

She was discussing it with her sister-in-law, who asked what she really enjoyed doing. Vegetable gardening was her immediate response.

Her sister-in-law suggested she take some horticulture classes at Black Hawk College.

"For every reason I gave against that idea, she came up with one for it," Ms. Hurley said. "The next day, I registered for the fall semester, taking just two classes to see how I liked it."

She loved the classes and decided to pursue a two-year associate's degree in horticulture. She got an A in every class.

Even before she graduated, Ms. Hurley found a job at Corn Crib Nursery in Coal Valley, doing customer service and tending plants. After the spring rush was over at Corn Crib, she got a job as a seasonal worker at Heritage Landscape in Moline.

From March through early November, she waters, fertilizes and prunes the plants and determines how to treat any that aren't doing well.

Last November, Ms. Hurley taught Home Vegetable Gardening at the Black Hawk College Outreach Center through the Professional and Community Education Program.

The course focused on what can be done during winter months to prepare for a spring garden and tips for getting children interested in gardening. She hopes to teach similar classes in the future.

"If you're unfulfilled in your job, it doesn't matter how much you are getting paid," Ms. Hurley said. "The longer you stay in that job, the unhappier you are going to be. There is more to a job than money. The real value comes with enjoying what you do."







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