70-year-old MATC student earns degree, plans to open a boutique

A business start-up with plenty of experience

Mark Feldmann, feldmam1@matc.edu

May 24, 2022

MILWAUKEE – Possessing a keen business mind has no expiration date.

Ola Sellers can attest to that.

Sellers, 70, earned an associate degree in business management from Milwaukee Area Technical College on May 22 [https://cbs58.com/news/it-was-an-awesome-experience-70-year-old-milwaukee-woman-graduates-from-matc]. She plans to open a boutique selling clothes for plus-size women and her marketing strategy reveals her embrace of contemporary retailing.

“I’m not sure that brick and mortar stores reach enough people,” said 

Sellers, who grew up in Milwaukee and raised seven children. “The online avenue can reach not just Wisconsin, but the whole world. I would love to serve people all around the globe.”

Sellers grew up with 10 brothers and sisters. Her parents moved to Milwaukee from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in 1952, the year she was born. She graduated from Milwaukee Riverside High School and trained to be a hairstylist. She worked in various salons, and studied creative design and floral arranging.

“The creative juices have always flowed for me,” Sellers said. “I love to bring beauty to people. I love to serve them and to put a smile on their face.”

After working, raising her children, volunteering at the Scott Christian Youth Center, enjoying her grandchildren, and having her husband pass away, Sellers became interested in studying business.

“I always had a passion for retail, but financially I couldn’t make it work,” she said. “And then along came the MATC Adult Promise program.”

The MATC Promise program provides free tuition for eligible students who have earned some college credits but have not completed a degree. Eligible students earn up to 75 credits of free tuition – after other scholarships and grants are applied – to complete an in-demand associate degree or technical diploma.

“The Promise program really opened the door for me,” Sellers said. 

Sellers started by taking in-person classes and, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, switched to online courses. “At first I was horrified about going online, but I really learned to love them,” she said.

The students in her in-person classes enjoyed having her there to dispense wisdom and advice accrued from seven decades of living, she said. “We got along great and interacted very well,” she said. “They were always asking me about my life’s journey because I already was a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother.”

Sellers also completed an internship by working as a student ambassador for MATC’s CareerHub office at the Downtown Milwaukee Campus. 

Sellers stayed focused, motivated and disciplined and completed her coursework, despite having some down days. “There were times I was going to throw in the towel, but MATC has amazing resources to help you get through almost anything,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful journey.”

In April, Sellers and other students aged 50 and older were honored at a luncheon at MATC’s Oak Creek Campus.

“These students show no signs of stopping,” Eugene Parks, head of the Oak Creek Campus Climate Committee, said at the event. “Older students enhance our classroom diversity, enrich discussions and help prepare younger students to manage a diverse workforce.”

He added, “Sometimes you discover later in life what you want to do. MATC is here to provide support for applying, attending and completing the courses you need if you reconsider or re-tool your future.”

“We like to use the word seasoned and not older,” said Amber Miller, AARP Wisconsin Associate State Director of Community Outreach, who also attended the Oak Creek event. “Many people 50 or older are not ready to just retire, sit at home and do nothing. They still have so much life in front of them. Age should never be a roadblock to pursue your dreams.”

Wisconsin’s largest technical college and one of the most diverse two-year institutions in the Midwest, Milwaukee Area Technical College is a key driver of southeastern Wisconsin’s economy and has provided innovative education in the region since 1912. More than 25,000 students per year attend the college’s four campuses and community-based sites or learn online. MATC offers affordable and accessible education and training opportunities that empower and transform lives in the community. The college offers more than 170 academic programs; and transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees with more than 40 four-year colleges and universities. Overwhelmingly, MATC graduates build careers and businesses in southeastern Wisconsin. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.