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Minimum Wage Trap - You Can Earn More Money.

Updated on January 22, 2020
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Sheila is a Registered Nurse with her Bachelors Degree in Science. She is currently working from home as a Nurse Consultant.

Some Personal Perspective

I grew up in poverty and I managed to pull myself up and out of poverty. My parents were decent and loving people who wanted a better life for their children. My father drove the city garbage truck for a small Burrough in Pennsylvania, my mother stayed home and raised three children and ran the household. We managed just fine on my fathers salary until a serious back injury and five subsequent surgeries ended his working life completely. We ended up on welfare when I was 9 years old and life became very different. Forced to move into "the projects" at age 10 meant sharing a small bedroom with my two younger brothers. It meant being fearful of the bullies at the new bus stop, those whose parents were not as "parental" as mine.

My parents always reminded us that we were very fortunate and still had so much more than the poor starving people in whatever poor country was in the news at that time. Mom always told us "you can be anything you want to be when you grow up" and Dad always reminded us of how much we were loved and that we were "the best kids ever." Thankfully I bought what they were selling.

The Early Working Years

My first job was as a janitors assistant during the summer months at the high school I attended. The job was a "gift" to poor students whose parents were on welfare. I arrived at 6:00 am five days a week and worked 8 long hours in the hot humid classrooms cleaning gum off desks and stripping 9 months of wax build up off the floors. The pay at the time was $2.78/hour. I was positive I would not grow up to be a janitor - it was not my thing.

I spent the next several years working in a gas station pumping gas and heating up pre-made sandwiches for the tourists passing through town. In the summer months it was nonstop running from car to car filling tanks and running back inside to ring up candy and pop in between. Pay was minimum wage and there were no benefits offered. Again - not my thing.

Eventually I got married - to the mechanic from the gas station I worked at, and had a couple of kids of my own. I was 25 years old and working as a waitress in a truck stop in the middle of Wyoming. This was the toughest job yet. On my feet every moment, carrying heavy trays full of food that sometimes seemed to weigh more than I did. Truck drivers can give a young lady more attention than she wants too - I was constantly reminding the same jerks over and over that my back side was not to be touched by anyone but my husband. I would go home dog tired and frustrated - then have to hand over most of my tips for the day to the babysitter. I knew I didn't want to spend my whole life in this vicious circle of living paycheck to paycheck. Feeling 20 years older than I should from the stress of worrying about the washing machine dying or the car breaking down didn't help either.

College Here I Come:

I knew I had to improve my situation, nobody else could do it for me and I owed my children a better life. I decided I wanted to become a nurse. I went to the local Community College and found out that there was a a 2 year wait to get into the Registered Nurse (RN) program. I got a bit discouraged but the College counselor reassured me that I could get started on the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) certification right away. I spent the next 9 months working part time and going to school to become an LPN.

My first job as an LPN paid 3 times more than my hourly wage as a waitress, it was very well worth the 9 months of classes. Two years later I finished the RN program with honors and moved my family firmly into middle class. I worked as an RN for 10 years when I decided to go back to school to get my Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) so I could pursue more of the nursing leadership role. I am now a Nurse Manager for a large multi specialty medical facility.


The point of sharing my story was to possibly help someone else make the leap from poverty to a good paying career. I did it in baby steps, maybe you prefer a different path. Most larger cities have Community Colleges that offer a variety of career opportunities to help you enhance your life. They offer grants and loans to defray the expense and they have tutors for those who need a little extra time and assistance. If college is not the way for you - there are plenty of other options. Start a small business and grow it to success. Use your God given talents to sell your wares, can you sew, fix things, write, make something you can sell to others i.e. art or specialty foods. The possibilities are endless.You can make a better life for yourself - get started today!


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