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Elgin school helps Carpentersville woman overcome career challenges

Kelly YarringtCarpentersville overcame numerous obstacles graduate from Elgin’s growing Computer Systems Institute. | Emily Miller~Sun-Times Media

Kelly Yarrington of Carpentersville overcame numerous obstacles to graduate from Elgin’s growing Computer Systems Institute. | Emily Miller~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 22, 2013 3:08PM

ELGIN — When Kelly Yarrington lost her job in retail management to downsizing, she decided like many people to go back to school.

Unlike many people, Yarrington made a detailed spreadsheet of all the schools in the area.

She also faced a number of challenges: a new baby, buying and moving with her husband Jeremy to a new house in Carpentersville, her mother’s diagnosis with cancer (“a little bit of a heartstring being tugged on,” she said).

And a number of questions, she said: “How am I going to provide for my family’s future? How am I going to basically reinvent myself?”

All those things led Yarrington to the Elgin Computer Systems Institute, a growing campus offering a number of certificate programs at 400 Airport Road, near Interstate 90 and Route 31.

“It was fun. It was challenging. It was something new,” she said.

The Skokie-based institute owns and operates five campuses in Illinois — in Skokie, Elgin, Chicago, Lombard and Gurnee — and two in Massachusetts, according to its website. They offer programs and exams to become certified to be a medical administration assistant and clinical medical assistant, as well as in business and networking careers.

The two-year-old Elgin campus currently has about 300 students, according to campus president Tom Claxton; 88 graduated in May with Yarrington.

The health care field appealed to the Carpentersville woman because “it’s booming beyond all means,” she said.

She specifically was interested in becoming a certified billing and coding specialist because of her “analytical” spreadsheet-making personality, she said. That, and “the challenge of the code,” she said.

And she was interested in Elgin Computer Systems Institute’s program because of its small class sizes and the fact she could finish the program in eight months, she said. Its career services also helped her revamp her resumé, practiced interviewing with her and connected her with employers in the area.

The institute’s health care career program has an overall 45 percent job placement rate, according to its website.

“A lot of the things that I learned in classes, like the verbiage, I’m hearing in the field. So it’s not like — my boss doesn’t say anything and I’m like, ‘Can you explain that to me?’ ” Yarrington said. “Even though I might not have the years of experience behind me, I’m walking into it with the knowledge.”

Focusing in

So the Carpentersville woman began working two side jobs to make ends meet, she said.

She went to school in the evening, blogging on the school website, planning student events and studying at home with her books spread out on the floor with her son Samuel, just 3 months old when she started class. Sometimes, she said, she distracted the baby with the cat — “in a good way” — so she could get through a chapter.

It was hard, she admitted.

But she focused on reinventing herself, on making a better life for herself, she said. And she ended up graduating as student blogger of the year and commencement speaker with a job she loves as an insurance data entry specialist at Andres Medical Billing and Coding in Arlington Heights.

Now, she said, she wants others to know: “It’s possible. It can be done.”

“You’re going to make yourself a stronger person. What do you want to do? You have to decide that. And then going through it is like running a race. You start it at the starting line, and you can see the finish line, so as the runners would say, ‘Kick it!’ ”

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