We Are Western: Amanda Heintz

“I work with all men at my job. My coworkers treat me like anyone else; we depend on each other—for all of us, it feels like a family.”

The universe was in an irritable mood the day it intervened in Amanda’s life in a terrible way. A gentler nudge in the right direction would have been appreciated, but we don’t get to choose these things. On a stormy gray morning, Amanda Heintz—at the time a Western nursing student—was driving to church, like she always did. This trip left Amanda with a crumpled car and a cleanly broken femur. The accident was tailor-made for a pain killer habit. She unwittingly entered a darkly-lit pattern of addiction—a place notoriously difficult to come back from. However, lots has happened since.

Amanda completed the health science track in high school. She was already working as a CNA, so naturally it was assumed she would continue the nursing track at Western. She did exactly that—up until the car accident which changed everything in a moment. Addiction complications led to Amanda’s incarceration at Taycheedah Correctional Institution (TCI), a women-specific prison in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. With a mission far beyond punishment, TCI emphasizes education and reentry skills.

There are program options at TCI, but the Building Maintenance program had openings. Amanda talked herself into applying and aced the program entrance exam. She learned about carpentry and tools, electricity, plumbing, blueprint reading; the final project was building a modular home. She loved it! When she graduated from the program, she worked maintenance for the prison and continued developing valuable skills, which she did until she left.

Upon leaving TCI, Amanda knew she wanted to stay the course and looked for a material handling job in the area. T.D. Padesky was looking for exactly that position and chose Amanda because of her farm labor experience. She grew within the position and was accepted into the apprenticeship program—getting paid to work while learning the trade in the classroom and on the job is a great situation!

Amanda currently is at Western and enjoying her fifth and final year as an electrician apprentice. Amanda and her team at T.D. Padesky Electric spend most of their time traveling Wisconsin to build new Kwik Trips. They are there for the groundbreaking and see the project through to grand opening day. Amanda loves the work and is an accomplished builder and electrician. She can’t imagine—even a little—being a nurse. She also can’t believe she let someone convince her that’s what she should be.