Pumped up for a career change

Robert Cain hopes to become a certified personal instructor, focusing on middle-age men who want to get in shape. (Photos: Hinds Community College)

Earning a living while feeding a passion on the side worked out just fine for 62-year-old Robert Cain until parts of his world began to change.

Cain, a resident of Vicksburg, Mississippi, worked in retail sales in metro Jackson for more than 40 years after earning a degree from Hinds Community College in 1977 in distribution and marketing.

“My specialty was working as a retail sales consultant, using a lot of the skills Hinds gave me,” Cain said. “I enjoyed working with the people. I’m absolutely at my best when I’m working around people.”

More than a hobby

His interest in personal fitness and martial arts training held steady through the years, as he obtained a black belt in Okinawa-style karate and a brown belt in the Japanese version. Last October, he returned to Hinds to pursue a degree in what had been merely a hobby.

“I was starting to get fatigued driving back and forth from Vicksburg to Pearl five days a week, plus my daughter’s school was moved to another location, which added to my commute,” he said. “My wife does social work, and one of us had to make a career change.

“I’ve liked to work out and keep in shape since I was 17. So, I went to part-time at work and looked into programs at Hinds that would add to my efforts to become a certified personal trainer,” Cain said. “I want to appeal to the man who’s over 40 who wakes up one day and says, ‘I’m badly out of shape.’”

For Cain, taking courses in first aid and sociology at the Vicksburg-Warren Campus toward a credential in health and physical education meant being in a classroom setting for the first time in 40 years. Often, he wears a business suit to class, which makes him stand out before he shares his story with people.

“Going back to college is a very unique experience,” he said. “The world has changed. Kids today don’t talk – they text.”

An extra resource

His instructors and campus staff see Cain’s return to school as a learning experience for them, too.

“Robert has been an inspiration to me as an administrator because he has so much experience in leadership,” said Elmira Ratliff, dean for the Vicksburg-Warren Campus. “And he doesn’t mind stopping by my office to chat and share nuggets of wisdom when he has downtime between classes.”

Gwendolyn Appleby, his introduction to sociology instructor last semester, touts Cain as an inspiration for other older students who are thinking about a return to school.

“He told me it was a little intimidating for him, but after the first month, Robert became a star student,” Appleby said. “He enjoyed interacting with his classmates, and his work ethic was impeccable.”

This semester, Cain passed his certification online with the National Academy of Sports Medicine and is on track to earn his newest Hinds credential in 2020. Both will help bolster his budding second career.

“The physical education degree from Hinds will raise my credentials to a whole new level,” he said. “To have that degree just broadens your knowledge of things.”

It’s not unusual for Cain to come to class in a business suit.

About the Author

Danny Barrett, Jr.
is a public relations communications specialist at Hinds Community College in Mississippi.