When Mark Slupe shares his story of going from a paid job to going back to college and finding work as an unpaid intern at the age of 53, some might view that as a step backward. But as Slupe views it, it’s a giant step forward, just a step in a new direction.
“It may seem a bit backwards but it seems to be working out all right,” said Slupe with a smile. “I think my (life) path was at kind of a standstill for a little bit there. Now I am back to moving.”
The Windom native graduated from high school in 1977 and began working photography in the newspaper business. Starting out at the Worthington Daily Globe before moving to Boulder, Colo., to work with newspaper there, Slupe kept with his passion for 25 years until moving to the Brainerd lakes area in 2002 to be closer to his family.
Making the move, Slupe said he was unable to find work back in photography and began working numerous odd-end jobs to make ends meet, continuing his job search for the next seven years.
“They were non-satisfactory jobs for me,” said Slupe, who worked at Target, Brainerd International Raceway and Freedom Gas Station to name a few employers. “I love media and I love visual things.”
It wasn’t until Steve Waller, public information specialist at Central Lakes College, approached Slupe about a new program CLC was offering that he would be able to get back to what he loves.
Waller told Slupe about a videography program and gauged his interest.
“I totally got enthused,” said Slupe, who is now in his second year at the Staples campus in the program.
Enrolling at an age not typically seen was no easy task according to Slupe.
“I hadn’t studied in literally decades,” said the 53-year-old. “I was really intimidated by all the bookwork and stuff because I was so far removed from that, so I found myself having to study extra hard just so it would sink in because my older brain was not absorbing it as much as when I was younger.
“It’s very different being the ‘granddad’ of the class of young people.”
But Slupe said he kept up with it and found a new passion in his studies and he jumped at every new opportunity college offered, including internships.
Slupe heard about a media internship with the Breezy Point Stars, a junior hockey team in the North American Hockey Tier III League (NA3HL), and tossed his name in to see what would he happen. Next thing he knew, Slupe was up at the rink shooting home games at the Breezy Point Arena Friday and Saturday nights.
“I always loved shooting sports,” said Slupe, who said he had preconceptions about video guys at sporting events, thinking it was easier to video than photograph. He retracted that statement after getting into video. “And now I’m learning how to do it with a video camera.
“It’s easy because it is such a wide shot from up top (for team and game use) and I really enjoy it.”
Slupe said that even though the internship is unpaid — instead earning college credit — the experience is invaluable. Experience he hopes to add to his resume when he starts looking for jobs after graduation this May.
“It’s almost as scary as going back to school,” said Slupe of the approaching spring graduation. “Now I have to find a job and pay back these student loans and it’s more intimidating getting back into the real world not as a 20-year-old anymore but as a 53-year-old.
“Now my working career has to be very finite amount of time and this is what I’ve got to do for the next 15 to 20 years or hopefully longer.”
But while Slupe may be apprehensive of what lies ahead, he still has his goal set on news, just from a different angle.
“I would love to get back into the newspaper and run a video department so that the photographers don’t have to spend a lot of time doing that,” he said. “I’m just ready to see where this all can take me.”
A new direction and a new visual angle on life.