The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Artist’s paintings reflect transitions in lives of women

Darrell Whitsell, SE Campus senior office assistant, shows some of his paintings on SE Campus. Whitsell was laid off from his job and struggled to find his way into a new field by assisting students who visit him in the career and employment services office. He donates his art to assist the WIN-R program.  Photo by Patrick Cusack/The Collegian
Darrell Whitsell, SE Campus senior office assistant, shows some of his paintings on SE Campus. Whitsell was laid off from his job and struggled to find his way into a new field by assisting students who visit him in the career and employment services office. He donates his art to assist the WIN-R program. Photo by Patrick Cusack/The Collegian

by Mark Bauer/se news editor

Darrell Whitsell, SE Campus senior office assistant, shows some of his paintings on SE Campus. Whitsell was laid off from his job and struggled to find his way into a new field by assisting students who visit him in the career and employment services office. He donates his art to assist the WIN-R program.  Photo by Patrick Cusack/The Collegian
Darrell Whitsell, SE Campus senior office assistant, shows some of his paintings on SE Campus. Whitsell was laid off from his job and struggled to find his way into a new field by assisting students who visit him in the career and employment services office. He donates his art to assist the WIN-R program. Photo by Patrick Cusack/The Collegian

Professional experience in the publishing industry and life lessons through hardship culminate into essential ingredients for Darrell Whitsell as he assists individuals in recognizing their ability to reach their fullest potential.

For years, Whitsell worked as a creative services manager for a publishing business overseeing the visual advertisement division, both locally and nationally, and regularly trained representatives on how to increase sales.

Those skills easily translated over to his current job as senior office assistant in the SE career and employment services department.

Whitsell continually deals with students looking to better their resumes or polish their interview skills. Many of the students he comes into contact with during any given semester are part of the Women in New Roles Program on the SE Campus, which Whitsell often aids.

For two consecutive semesters, Whitsell has donated pieces of artwork, specifically composed for the WIN-R program, to be auctioned off during the silent auctions held on campus. The proceeds from Whitsell’s paintings go toward a general scholarship fund that provides financial aid to women in the program.

Drawn from the inspiration of the women, Whitsell’s paintings purposely reflect their varying, but oftentimes delicate backgrounds. While some of the women in the program are married and have families, still others come from difficult circumstances.

“ Some [of these women] have never worked; some have been mothers in the home,” he said, “but they are going out now into the business world.”

According to the WIN-R Web site, the program seeks to connect meaning to women searching for direction or first-time students looking to affirm a career choice.

Ultimately, the program assists women in answering the question: where am I going?

But more than a decade ago, Whitsell was the one asking that very question after he was laid off from the company he was employed with for more than 12 years.

“ The layoff was quite devastating since I had a wife, two children, a mortgage and was primarily responsible for other necessary means to live comfortably enough as a family,” he said.

On the verge of having to move his family and sell their home, Whitsell suffered not only financially but emotionally as well. Most of his self-image, he said, was wrapped up in being a successful creative manager in the corporate world. And when that was taken away, so was his concept of self-image. It threw him into a dark period filled with uncertainty and self-doubt that, for a time, he could not see an end.

In order to save his home, he traded in a sleek convertible and luxury van for a single sedan. In addition to his wife’s meager income, they lived off temp copywriting jobs and a 401k he had accumulated.

At some of the lower points during this period, Whitsell and his wife, Kay, could not provide basic everyday items for their two sons, Bennet and Nuell.

“ It was heart-wrenching for us as parents,” he said.

But with careful budgeting, modest living and temporary projects that helped float him and his family monetarily, as well as a faith in God—which he credits as the source of much of his strength through those difficult times—Whitsell eventually overcame the cycle of despair.

Whitsell finally got a break in the unemployment rut when TCC, then known as TCJC (Tarrant County Junior College), officially opened SE Campus in fall 1996. Among the incoming students, Whitsell was hired for the career and employment services department.

Over the years, Whitsell has provided advice and services to a number of students who have walked through his office doors.

Two such students, Serena Jones and Nancy Sibley, both praise Whitsell for his willingness to work with them to perfect whatever weaknesses they had in their job application process.

“ My resume was rewritten more than five times before it was selected,” Sibley said, “and I was complimented at every single interview that I was the most professional and energetic [applicant] of the day.”

Sibley said that Whitsell instilled in her the confidence to write an outstanding resume.

“ I am now an administrative assistant to the owner of a staffing company,” she said.

Jones also experienced similar results having been through the WIN-R program and learning from Whitsell’s career-oriented advice.

“ I had been a homemaker for some time, but I knew it was time to make a life change,” she said. “Although I thought about applying for a part-time job somewhere, I had no idea where to begin.”

Whitsell sat down and explained how the basic skills she had used as a stay-at-home-mom could be incorporated into the workplace.

“ He told me things like basic computer skills, organization skills and volunteer work are all real-world assets that employers look for,” she said. “His time and effort are why I am working today.”

Despite the few rocky years of unemployment and emotional lows, Whitsell and his family experienced, he sees that time as a blessing in disguise and does not hint at wishing it could have happened any other way.

“ I am much more sensitive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, and my marriage has developed into a refined and blessed union,” he said. “Our children now have the example through their father, and mother, too, that peace and happiness comes from putting the gifts that God gives us to work with expressions of ourselves and giving him his due glory for our creation.”

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