When I found out I was pregnant with my first child I was sixteen years old. Living in a small town with a lot of narrow minded people made it very difficult to finish my grade ten year. I tried, I tried very hard. I kept attending school – showing up to more classes and doing more school work than I did before. It was important to me to finish that year.
I was pushed onto the floor, slammed into lockers, verbally abused by many other students and told by some teachers that I was not welcome in their classroom because I was “a distraction” with my growing belly. When my grades began to drop I decided it was time to quit. I went to the principal and vice principal and told them I wanted to leave school. The vice principal was not on board. He paired me with a teacher who would bring me school work, return it to school for me and sit with me while I completed tests and exams. I finished my grade ten year (minus a few credits) through what they called Home Study.
I had my daughter during summer break between grade ten and eleven and took a year of school off so I could be with her and work. I attempted to go back in what should have been my grade twelve year. I found it impossible to sit in a classroom and the bullying started again soon after my return. I found myself skipping classes because I couldn’t sit still after a year of mothering. I didn’t feel welcome in most of my classes and the other students were horrible. I started to do class work at home then go to class just to hand it in and pick up more work. My grades were good so I wasn’t worried about not sitting in class however, I was not aware that you can be expelled for not attending your classes. So here I was, a young mother who is now not only unwelcome in her classes but not welcome inside the entire school. I was terrified to tell my parents so every morning I continued to catch the bus into town and began to go to the Adult Learning Centre to study and prepare to write the GED.
About a month of catching the bus to town for the Adult Learning Centre, I was told that I was no longer aloud on the bus because I was not a student anymore. So I called the taxi every morning instead – I was determined to get my education. The problem with the Adult Learning Centre was that it was a classroom setting and they would not let me book my appointment to write the GED until they felt I was ready. I spent three months going over workbooks, studying, practice tests and finally giving up because it felt like they weren’t supportive at all. I felt completely drained, exhausted and defeated.
Over the next few years I attempted to prepare for writing the GED a few more times and when I finally gave up on that (due to the exact same experience over and over) I tried the Independent Learning Centre courses. These were booklets that I would have mailed to me, do the course work, mail them back, write an online test then be granted the credit. I did four credits this way – or so I thought. They were never actually granted because these credits were through an independent school board, not a school board that could legally grant me these credits since I was not an enrolled student anywhere. Again, I was drained, exhausted and defeated.
Fast forward a few more years: I had attended college through mature student testing, decided the course was not the right fit for me and dropped out, had another baby – my first son, finally left an abusive relationship, moved back to my home town just to move away again due to being found by my abusive ex. I met the love of my life who – a few years later – gave me my second son, my last baby.
I knew my youngest was the last baby I was going to have, and wanted to have. Three kids just felt right to me. But with being a young mom mixed with being low income, in an abusive relationship and feeling unwelcome everywhere, I had never had a baby shower (other than the one I threw myself, I know, sad), I never had the nice things that I always wanted and I never had the fun photo shoots. So this time I did it all. My friends threw me a baby shower, I bought the glider chair for nursing, I found my dream diaper bag and I read the books. In reality this was number three for me, but I never actually had the experience of a happy pregnancy, so this was just like number one. After baby boy was born I did all the post-partum things: family visits, monthly pictures, filling out the baby book, sibling gifts and reading more books. But the one thing I did and will forever be grateful for is having the public health nurse visit.
At first just one came, she showed me fun things to do with baby, checked for milestones, chatted with me to make sure I was feeling good and brought some fun activities. Then she hooked me up with the parent support worker – another type of nurse who does home visits. This nurse came with recipes for baby food and family meals, baby gates, coupons, and lots of other amazing things. She also sat with baby while I showered or finished painting a room.
It was a regular home visit with the parent support worker when she gave me the nudge that ended up changing my life. She told me about a program that a couple other moms were doing. It was through the local school board, it was free, and I could do it from home for the most part. I made the phone call the next day and a week later I met up with the teacher who registered me. I was a high school student again, but this time it was going to work!
The Adult Education Program fit into my life, I didn’t have to fit my life around the program. I didn’t have to change anything other than instead of bingeing Netflix at night, I worked on school work for an hour. In the beginning I met with the guidance teacher with my transcript and a few other things. She went over the credits I had and the credits I needed. I was granted some credits for things I had done in the real world such as paying rent, having a home business, and having a resume.
After that I received a package for doing co-op. I’m a very active volunteer at my kids’ school so I decided to do my co-op through my volunteering. I was able to count the hours that I spent at the school, outside the school, and at home. I was also aloud to back track and count hours from before I began my program. As long as I was doing things for my volunteer work, I was able to count that time. The principal of the school acted as my supervisor and between August 2018 to June 2019 I completed my three hundred and thirty hours that I needed for my three co-op credits. It was also because of this course that I had the opportunity to accept the Award of Excellence for all my volunteer work over the years. Other than those three credits I also needed my grade 12 English and grade nine and ten sciences.
For my English, I signed up for an adult night class. The entire course was online and the class only met once every week. Students had the option of signing into class each week then leaving if they didn’t need help. As long as we were able to do the work at home, we could do it at home. With being a mom of three I didn’t have the option of staying every week so I just went for attendance and got help with any work that I needed. It was a ten week long course and I completed it in six weeks. The teacher was very supportive and made sure the students knew that he cared about their success. We were not treated like high school students, we were treated as the adults that we are and with the respect that we deserve.
For my science I wrote an assessment. I was given a textbook and workbook that covered enough for two years of science. It was like a fast track through grade nine and ten science, hitting the big stuff and leaving out all the little assignments, experiments and projects. I read through the textbook and filled out the workbook within two days. I booked my writing date and had planned to study but life happened and I ended up walking into my assessment without studying. I was nervous but the work was still pretty fresh in my mind. It was a ten page test and I wrote it within forty-five minutes. I wrote down and checked off the first things that came to mind for each question, signed and dated it then shoved it towards the teacher, taking a huge breathe as if I hadn’t been breathing. I figured if anything I could go back and rewrite some of it if needed so I headed home before it was marked. Halfway home I received the text from the teacher saying I had not only passed, but I had done excellent!
I began the Adult Education Program in October 2018 and earned my OSSD by June 2019. I didn’t have to change my life, I didn’t have to stop doing anything that I was already doing. I didn’t have to find or pay for child care and I did most of the course work at home. The GED and ILCs didn’t fit into my life but this program did.
The school board even threw a graduation ceremony where we could invite our family members. There was a group of us that participated in the program together. Most of us had never met each other but we were all celebrated. They decorated with blue and white balloons, set up a room for taking pictures, ordered gourmet cupcakes and fruit trays and had a photographer present. We even got to wear the graduation caps and gowns! The school board had appointed a principal to the program and he spoke at the ceremony along with some special guest speakers. There was also a handful of graduates asked to speak but only two of us accepted – me being one of them! I was very nervous and shook like a leaf the entire time but I’m happy I accepted and got that experience. We were called up one at a time to receive our diplomas and get pictures taken of us. I was part of the very first group of graduates of Bluewater District School Board’s Adult Education Program!
The day after the graduation ceremony my family was getting ready to leave for a camping trip and I received a call from a reporter. I chatted with him for a few minutes, answering his questions and telling him why I decided to do this program. I hung up the phone not really thinking much of it. I thought maybe he was collecting information and experiences of the graduates for the school board. A couple weeks later I found a write up in the local newspaper – and there was a whole part just about me! That was pretty cool!
It still hasn’t completely sunk in that I have finally graduated grade twelve. I mean, I know I have but it happened so fast and so easy that I just can’t believe I finally did it! I am now currently trying to decide what exactly I want to do as a career and find a way to do an online college course. I’m hoping for Office Administration but there are a few other things I’m interested in too.
But I don’t write this to brag to you. I write this to give you that push that you need. If you haven’t found a way to get your grade twelve, keep searching! The GED is great but it’s not always a good fit. Call your local school board and find out if they have an Adult Education Program. You’re never too old or too busy to do something that can change your life. I graduated high school at twenty eight years old with three kids (who were ten, seven and one at the time of this program). I’m an active volunteer, have a home business through direct sales, clean my mother’s house weekly, keep up with all the house work and kids’ activities and I STILL got through this program. To borrow a saying from the school board, “You’re closer than you think”. Make the call! Never give up on yourself. Never give up on your goals. Never give up on your dreams. Never give up.
Read the article from Bluewater District School Board about the Adult Education Program
The article from the local newspaper “The Post” is not yet available online.
Listen to my speech from the graduation ceremony here: