Traverse City Record-Eagle

Feature Columnists

October 27, 2013

Anne Stanton: What makes a super hero?

I watch a lot of movies with my 9-year-old son. A recent movie, “After Earth,” wasn’t exactly a commercial or critical success, but I liked the message: you can choose fear — or not.

In this case, there were these blind, predator monsters called Ursas that detect victims by sniffing out their fear and promptly ripping them apart. But “ghosters” could trick them by taming their fear. The Ursas would walk right over them as if they didn’t exist.

I often wonder if kids pick up these messages and apply them to ordinary life, or if it’s all about the super hero, wham, bam fights. Probably the latter.

I thought of this movie after reporting on a non-profit called Experience Works that runs a job program that helps older, very poor folks get training and, hopefully, a real job. One of its clients — Paul Fretheim — intrigued me.

Fretheim worked for Tower Automotive as an administrative assistant, but was laid off eight years ago when the company declared bankruptcy.

He hasn’t held a permanent job since. Maybe, he said, it’s because some employers prefer women for office work — two women told him they didn’t want a man. He found temporary jobs for a few years, but the work ran out and he was back to square one.

Now Fretheim is an Experience Works client. He’s paid $7.40 an hour and works about 20 hours a week at the Old Town Playhouse. They love him there. He’s getting their filing out of the way and much more. In turn, the Playhouse is teaching him current software programs.

Although Fretheim works at the Playhouse, he doesn’t actually have a job there. Fretheim gets paid by Experience Works with the hope that the training he gets at the Playhouse will help him find a permanent job.

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