Breaking Barriers: Mary Campbell

When approaching the old storefront at 1311 W Olive St, one can’t help but notice the mural of women carrying tools and pushing wheelbarrows painted on the side of the building. This formerly abandoned site is now home to the project Dreams Are Possible- a nonprofit job training center for women wanting to go into trade and skill-based careers like electrical, plumbing, and construction. Positions known for being particularly hard for women to access. 

I met with the director of the center, Mary Campbell, to get a tour of the location which is still under construction. The site will have a main office, a classroom for presenters to come in, and a workspace for the students to get hands-on experience with tools. There will also be a computer lab geared towards math classes, online courses, and online job certification. Within view of the classroom, there will also be a kids play area. Local social service staff suggested this due to mothers’ unlikeliness to leave their children after getting home from work.

The center is not only going to be a place for women to learn practical skills but also social and environmental skills. Some of the students may have just gotten out of jail and may need guidance on how to work and communicate with others. The jobs that these women will be going into will also be male dominated, so training on how to function and stay safe as potentially the only female is important. 

When asked why she thinks this program is needed, Mary talked about the gender disparity she noticed when she first moved to Bloomington as a social worker and professor at ISU. She participated on boards with the goal of improving the lives of women in the city. She is also one of the masterminds behind Labyrinth, a program now run by the YWCA which provides job coaching, housing, and a place to work for women who are on probation. Mary is a champion for women in this community, and Dreams are Possible is her next campaign. 

Her goal for the program is “to break down barriers.” She talked about women being undervalued in our culture and the trend of women’s gravitation towards lower paying positions. She wants the women who come to the center to believe in themselves and to be able to “transition to high paying jobs” because “we women have a lot to offer.” 

The project is very community focused due to partnerships with local construction and trucking companies. This is also why Mary chose to bring an MCLP team in to help. This is her fourth time working with MCLP on a project, and she is very excited about working with a group of skilled people who love their community and practice servant leadership. 

Mary hopes to have Dreams Are Possible up and running by the beginning of December 2019, and we are so excited to see what the impact on the community this program will have. 

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