Everyone ages and everyone has a birthday.
In our younger years, we look forward to birthdays, as they mark certain milestones in a life: At 16, there is the privilege to drive; at 18, the right to vote; at 21, it is legal to consume alcohol.
But, at some point, it stops being fun to age.
Some believe there is less to look forward to and, in fact, our culture seems to look down upon the process of aging.
That aging is a bad thing is just a common misconception.
So, too, is the idea that with age comes the end of learning.
For at least at least 12 years, our lives are devoted to educational pursuits.
Once we complete our highest level of education and have the physical certification of our efforts in hand, many feel like that''s it, the end of the road.
What more is there to learn once the traditional modes of education have been exhausted?
For one man, Clarence Hancock, this idea that education stops at a certain point, couldn''t be further from the truth.
At 78, Clarence Hancock became the most senior participant to be certified by the Cleaning Management Institute (CMI).
A Day In The Life
Clarence Hancock has a very full life; married with seven children, Hancock also counts 50 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren among his family.
In 1967, Hancock was licensed and ordained as a minister, but for the past 11 years, Hancock has also been fit to get his hands a little dirty.
A typical day for Clarence Hancock starts early — very early.
Hancock is up at 5 a.m. and has made his way to work a little over an hour later.
Hancock, who has worked in the custodial field for 11 years — the past five as a custodian for the University of Tennessee in Knoxville (UTK) — has a daily routine that consists of custodial duties within a 274,148 square foot building.
He is responsible for cleaning and maintaining public areas that include, but are not necessarily limited to, hallways, lounges, offices and the restrooms on certain floors.
By mid-afternoon, Hancock has done more work than some of the university''s students.
What Finish Line?
While most people who have reached a certain peak in their lives might say that enough is enough, the same cannot be said for Hancock.
"The CMI certification helped me to learn more than I thought I knew, and at my age, I didn''t think that I could learn anything new," states Hancock. "Since I had not been to school for any kind of training since 1949, I thought I had learned and seen everything."
When opportunities for advancement and training presented themselves, with some encouragement from coworkers, Hancock took advantage of them.
"Several years ago, the Housing Department started offering CMI certification through classes taught by CMI certified trainers," says Hancock. "The classes are offered at a centralized location during work hours and average about two and a half hours, two days a week. Testing is done one module at a time. The classes for both Basic and Advanced certification last for about five months and are offered in the fall and the spring."
For Hancock, there was no one specific thing that made the training experience standout; rather, he cites the training aspect of the classes as a whole, from content and educational materials to his instructors, mentors and supervisor support.
The training Hancock has received through CMI''s certification program isn''t something that will go away over night.
Hancock believes the training and certification he received has opened him up to a number of possibilities and will help him help others as his tenure as a custodian at UTK continues.
"The training has helped me to realize that I can do a lot more with the equipment that I have been provided," notes Hancock. "It has also helped me to realize when something is being done incorrectly and help that person fix the problem."
Despite his elevated training and the ability to help his co-workers perform their tasks properly and efficiently, Hancock doesn''t believe he is perceived any differently now than before he became certified.
If he were to give advice to others considering training, even at an advancing age, it would simply be to do it.
"If you want to gain any knowledge to help you in your job, don''t let doubts in yourself defeat you and your goals," concludes Hancock. "If a 78-year-old man can do it, anybody should be able to do it."