Build Cobb Graduate Parthenia Sterling Finds Purpose in Her New Landscaping Career
“My daughter was away in the Air Force when I got this job, so she didn’t know about it right away,” says Parthenia, a graduate of Construction Ready at Build Cobb. “When I finally got to tell her about it, she said, ‘Do they know you’re going to kill all the plants?’ It’s so funny, because I hated flowers, I hated plants, and now I plant and water flowers, and I make them look pretty.”
Indeed, not only has Parthenia not killed any plants, she’s thriving in her new work and is, in the words of Ed Castro’s Teresa Sloan, “a ray of sunshine” to her colleagues.
Parthenia’s success should come as no surprise. She’s held a variety of jobs – including medical lab technologist, school teacher, cake decorator and loan processor – and adapted well to them all throughout her career.
She relocated from Fort Lauderdale to Atlanta in the early 2000s, following her mother, who had moved to the city upon retirement. A Powder Springs resident, Parthenia had been struggling to find work in recent years when she saw a flier for Construction Ready in a Cobb County church she was visiting. She was intrigued by the OSHA 10 certification the program offers, never dreaming she would end up working for a landscape company.
“At the hiring fair, there were roofing companies, concrete companies and the landscape company,” she says. “I was like, ‘I don’t know about concrete. I’m afraid of heights, so I can’t do the roofing. My dad had a landscaping company, but he never let me work with him, so I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll try that.’
“It’s very different from what I’m used to, but it keeps me busy,” she continues. “I have to stay moving. If I don’t, I get bored. I’m learning a lot. I do something different every day, which I love. My eyes are always moving, my mind is always moving, and I have to keep learning.”
Parthenia was so eager to take on whatever was asked of her, she soon was driving a company truck that waters trees and plants with an organic chemical mixture. On rainy days, when watering is impossible, she’ll join a crew to pull weeds, blow leaves and prune trees and shrubbery.
That truck is the source of Parthenia’s most memorable workday since joining the company in December 2018. It got stuck in soil at a customer’s multi-million dollar home, cancelling her remaining scheduled jobs for the day and requiring a tow truck to remedy the situation.
“Everyone told me not to feel bad, that I wasn’t the only one who has done that,” she remembers. “But I felt so bad, because they had trusted me with this truck. I really felt like crying that day.”
Still, she endured and looked for lessons in the experience. In fact, Parthenia says her new career “has been a very spiritual journey for me. This whole process that I’m going through, with learning this job, has helped me see that God is pruning me, pulling the weeds out of my own life, and helping me see I am being successful. So I’m excited to drive this truck and water plants. My best friend said, ‘Everybody needs somebody to water their plants. You’re making the city beautiful.’ And I said, ‘You know what, you’re right.’ Every time I go around the city, I can take pictures and say, ‘That’s a project I did.’”