►Kristine Babcock, Beverly
Kristine Babcock is on a mission to help about 300 veterans enrolled at North Shore Community College in Danvers make the change from military to civilian life.
“It can be very hard to reinvent yourself,” said Babcock, 47, the school’s veterans coordinator. “A lot of veterans have fabulous jobs in the military, but their skills don’t cross over to the civilian world.”
Babcock has walked in their boots. She was in the Navy for nearly 10 years, working in aviation electronics. But a back injury forced her to retire early in 1997.
She used veterans education benefits to earn an art degree from Salem State University.
“I really understand how hard it can be to go back to school,” she said.
Babcock worked as a graphic designer for many years, but was laid off. She enrolled at North Shore Community College to earn a certificate in Web design, and got a job at a small company, but was laid off in 2009 after working there 15 months. A long period of unemployment followed, during which she sent out hundreds of resumes with no luck.
She wondered if her military service had any value in the civilian world.
“I served for almost 10 years. My husband served for 14 years in the Marines,” said Babcock, a mother of two who lives in Beverly. “But it didn’t feel like that people valued that. A lot say they do, but you start to wonder. ‘Is it all fluff, a good thing to say?’ ”
While collecting unemployment, Babcock worked with a veterans employment counselor at North Shore Career Center in Salem. She was a part-time census worker in 2010, and got a part-time job working concessions at North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly. She worked as a substitute teacher in Beverly schools.
“I just worked little jobs to keep my sanity,” she said.
Still, by last November, more than two years after she was laid off, Babcock was discouraged. “My frustration level had piqued beyond piqued,” she said. “I could not believe I could not find a job.”
Babcock applied to North Shore after spotting a job listing for an assistant to the veterans coordinator.
“I thought I’d be a good candidate. I’m a veteran and I went to school there,” she said.
It took three tries before she was hired last December. Before she started, the director left the job. Babcock ended up running the office on her own. She was hired full time as the director in March.
“My goal is to have them use their benefits wisely,” Babcock said. “I want them to have the best chance they can to be successful.”