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Ms. Iowa, Janet Mantia CONGRATULATIONS to JANET MANTIA, Ms. Iowa 2017!

My Dad was a lineman for the CB&Q (Chicago, Burlington & Quincy) Railroad. Mom was a housewife. She rarely worked outside the home when we grew up. We lived in a box car until Dad got his own division based in Burlington Iowa. By this time my older brother was around seven, I was about five and my younger brother was one. When I was in first grade our teacher read us stories of the “box car children”. One day, a few years ago, when I was showing someone a picture of me in the boxcar, I realized that I was one.

Since I always liked to sing, I enrolled in the high school ACAPELLA choir where I learned to read music and studied composers as well as performing in choir productions. Sewing was also a class that gave me enjoyment. I graduated from Burlington High school, an average student with no interest in continued education. My dad insisted I should go to college, so I briefly attended Jr College, where I also sang in a performing choir, until I met my husband and dropped out to get married.

Shortly after getting married I began working. I sometimes made clothes for myself and the family. We often struggled financially but always managed one way or another. We rarely had time or money to go out, but I always enjoyed any opportunity to go out with friends and dance. We once even joined a square dance club to give us more opportunities to socialize. As the job supply in our town shrunk, we looked at moving to Arizona for a new start.

In my mid-forty’s I drove across country with my two youngest children to get them enrolled in school. I ended up getting a different new start than originally planned. With the help of good people in a small church we found an apartment and I found a job. After the kids were grown I went back to college at the age of fifty and graduated from Ottawa University with a Master’s degree in Professional Counseling in 2000.

After graduating, I began working in the field of mental health and was later led to work in the prison system, starting with juveniles in the hopes of helping them avoid serious prison time. Four years later, realizing that the youth only wanted to get back out and do whatever it was that brought them to corrections, I transferred to the adult system. Over my lifetime I worked various clerical positions including Bank Teller, bookkeeper of the Trust Dept., teacher’s aide and directed study coordinator. Working with the adult inmates who were interested in self-improvement, I finally felt like I could use my education and skills to make a difference.

Now, the mother of 4, grandmother of 10 and great grandmother of 10, I hope to enjoy my retirement spending time with family, dancing, singing, sewing, traveling and getting involved in new projects where I can help others.

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