Back for the Fu­ture

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Sher­brooke

Last Thurs­day, dur­ing Hooked on School Days, Que­bec’s spe­cial week that fo­cuses on school per­se­ver­ance, I spoke with three stu­dents at New Hori­zons, the East­ern Town­ships

School Board’s Adult Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre in Sher­brooke. All three stu­dents had re­turned to school to get their high school di­ploma.

Cather­ine Wood, who is in her midtwen­ties, “re­grets 100%” not fin­ish­ing high school the first time. Al­though she had en­joyed school and had good marks, Cather­ine’s ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing in fos­ter homes and abus­ing drugs con­trib­uted to her quit­ting high school in her teenage years. Brigitte Barbe-Letourneau, who is nine­teen years old, also spoke of fos­ter homes, drug abuse, and the need to find a job as rea­sons why she left school. Emanuel Be­langer, whose par­ents were vol­un­teer mis­sion­ar­ies, got as far as 10th grade through cor­re­spon­dence school. “Then I de­cided to quit so I could travel. The ex­pe­ri­ence was good, I did vol­un­teer work, but with­out proof of an ed­u­ca­tion, it was hard. Peo­ple want to see that,” ex­plained Emanuel.

When asked what mo­ti­vated her to re­turn to school, Cather­ine an­swered can­didly: “Af­ter five years on drugs, I had lost my re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, re­spect and a lot of con­fi­dence. I was tired of that life­style. Only you can help your­self and you re­ally have to want it. Now I’m do­ing the best I can to get back on track.”

Al­though she has been liv­ing on her own since she was six­teen, Brigitte al­ways wanted to fin­ish high school and tried re­turn­ing to school a few times. “There was al­ways some­thing that hin­dered me when I tried to go back to school. But this time, af­ter I got preg­nant, I put my foot down. I’ve been in school now for a year!” said the young mother of a six­month old baby.

Emanuel de­cided to re­turn to school when he re­al­ized that his “re­laxed life­style” couldn’t last for­ever. “I looked into the fu­ture and knew that with­out pa­pers, I would have no fu­ture. If I re­ally wanted to help peo­ple, I would need more ed­u­ca­tion.”

Re­turn­ing to school is not with­out its chal­lenges. “Just com­ing back was hard; it was em­bar­rass­ing. There’s also a lack of con­fi­dence. I was scared; I wasn’t used to hav­ing friends, be­ing so­cial and fit­ting in,” com­mented Cather­ine. “But it was eas­ier than I thought,” she said with a smile. “Yeah, now she talks to ev­ery­one!” added Brigitte. “Some­times money is tight but I’m try­ing to learn how to bud­get. I can get over­whelmed by all the work some­times, but the teach­ers are re­ally good at sup­port­ing us. And there is never enough time. I can’t do home­work at home in the evening be­cause I spend that time with my baby,” said Brigitte. “Yes. We’re jug­gling a lot more in our lives, as adults,” agreed Emanuel.

“Read­just­ing to home­work is hard. As an adult you think, do I re­ally have to do that? And go­ing back to do things I’ve al­ready done, like the math, be­cause the meth­ods have changed,” Emanuel com­mented.

But, chal­lenges and all, these stu­dents are happy to be back in school. “I like the peo­ple here, the stu­dents and the teach­ers, the whole en­vi­ron­ment. There’s noth­ing fun about the work, but I like how the teach­ers re­ally want to help. I look for­ward to go­ing to school,” said Cather­ine. “I’ve found good friends here and we mo­ti­vate each other,” added Brigitte. “I like the so­cial as­pects, it’s not just about the ed­u­ca­tion, and it’s a healthy learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment. The teach­ers are pa­tient and they do more than just give lessons: they teach! The teach­ers en­cour­age us to come to our own con­clu­sions; you learn more that way,” said Emanuel.

Re­turn­ing to school, whether the de­ci­sion is made eas­ily or with great dif­fi­culty, is al­most al­ways a life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. “I’ve calmed down and I’m more sta­ble now. I look at re­al­ity and I’m more of a pos­i­tive per­son now. I feel stronger, more in con­trol, and I know I can do what I want if I push my­self. I have goals now,” com­mented Cather­ine. “It’s eas­ier to deal with prob­lems now. I can get back up on my feet and I take it one day at a time. I feel stronger,” said Brigitte. “I am more con­fi­dent now. Go­ing back to school is help­ing me shape my life for the bet­ter. It brings out the best in you and you see what you’re made of. I now have hope for the fu­ture,” men­tioned Emanuel. “Yeah, hope,” agreed Brigitte.

All three stu­dents are plan­ning to con­tinue their ed­u­ca­tion once they get their diplo­mas. Cather­ine may study the ho­tel busi­ness at Cegep or study to be a Nurs­ing As­sis­tant. Brigitte is look­ing into Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Ac­count­ing and in­ves­ti­gat­ing other ca­reers with the school’s Ca­reer Coun­sel­lor, Danielle Robert. “You can ask Danielle Robert any­thing – she has all the an­swers!” said Brigitte. “They give you all the in­for­ma­tion you need, like about bur­saries and loans, at the school. They re­ally fa­cil­i­tate things here,” said Emanuel who is ex­pect­ing to be­gin the Nurs­ing As­sis­tant pro­gram at Len­noxville’s Vo­ca­tional and Train­ing Cen­tre next month.

Three dif­fer­ent stu­dents with three dif­fer­ent sto-

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