Going back to school after 30 years is a scary prospect. Yet, many of our students do just that. Karen Williams is one such student. This is her story.
Go back to school!
What advice would Karen Williams give to anyone who is considering going back to school, but unsure as to whether they should? “Go back to school! I wish I had stayed in school. It’s never too late to go back,” advises Karen who is completing her high school courses at PACC Adult Education. She’s also about to start a vocational program, Institutional and Home Care Assistance.
Karen marvels at how far she’s come and the turns her life has taken. Karen left school at 16 years old. Life was not easy for a young person with no education. Over the years, she raised 5 children. What motivated this mom of 5 and grandma of 2 to return to school? For Karen, it was the very real prospect of needing to ask her kids for financial assistance which motivated her to return to school. She did not want to ask her kids to help her pay bills or food. Karen explains that she’s on social assistance, which does not pay enough to live on. Karen felt that it was time to do something for herself and her community by being proactive.
A quick decision
The decision to return to her studies was a quick one. One week before classes started, she decided that she was ready to head back to the books. As it turned out PACC Adult, the centre where Karen enrolled, is in the same building as her old high school. Karen felt a certain sense of comfort in knowing the building. After enrolling, she was given placement tests to ensure that she would be registered in the right levels of English, French, and Math.
As Karen started her studies, she thought to herself “what am I doing here?” She was a little nervous and thought that maybe she’d made a mistake. But this feeling didn’t last long. She soon made new friends and learned that teachers, staff, and fellow students were all very helpful. In time, she joined Student Council. The new activities improved her self-confidence and allowed her to learn new skills, like yoga and meditation, to help her calm her nerves.
Karen’s family encouraged her to return to school and supported her wherever they could. At she started her studies, her kids and her son’s girlfriend, Priya, stepped in and encouraged her. Karen’s family were her biggest cheerleaders. Priya’s help was above and beyond what Karen expected. Priya was working and going to school at night to become a lawyer. Yet she took the time to tutor Karen and encourage her academics.
One of the things that Karen appreciated the most about PACC Adult Education was the sense of family and community. As Karen said, “teachers greet all students, whether they know them or not.” At PACC, Karen also received incredible support. When asked if anyone at PACC was particularly helpful, Karen did not hesitate to answer. “Kristina Tellier, from student services, was a godsend,” exclaimed Karen. From tutoring before class, answering every question with patience and kindness, and reaching out to a retired teacher for clarifications on a math problem, Kristina gave her the confidence to tackle math.
Math teachers Jordan Venne and Teddy Shulman were also a big help. Funny and dedicated Jordan “took the fear out of math for me,” said Karen. She referred to Teddy, as a “miracle worker” who is kind and makes students feel like they can do anything. She ended up winning 2 math awards.
Overall, she was amazed by the dedication of the teachers. She didn’t come across one teacher who did not help when she asked. She learned that PACC teachers and staff give students amazing support. Karen stated, “students who don’t have family support can still succeed with support from PACC staff.” Karen’s experience at PACC was a “much more positive” one than high school. Karen was very happy to have returned to finish her studies.
Education: a family affair
Karen is not the only member of her family to have studied at PACC. Two of Karen’s children studied Professional Cooking at the Pearson School of Culinary Arts (PSCA) which is located at PACC Career Centre. Her son graduated from the program, her daughter changed programs and became a PAB. She is now working at Kateri Memorial Hospital in Kahnawake. Both the Adult Education Centre and the Career Centre are located in the same building. Karen says that vocational education has helped her family. She was thrilled to learn that when she successfully completes her vocational (trade) program, she will receive two diplomas. Her high school diploma (DES) and a vocational one (DEP).
Recently, Karen was selected by teachers and staff to deliver a speech celebrating Adult Learners’ Week, which takes place from April 12 to 16, 2021. Her speech, along with speeches from students from other centres, will be broadcast on April 15 during a virtual ceremony.
Once she finishes her diploma in Institutional and Home Care Assistance, Karen’s dream is to work at the Douglas Hospital or helping the elderly. She wants to work with the vulnerable and use her new skills to help in any way she can. Karen is nervous and excited about starting the new program. But she has also learned she’s capable of achieving whatever she sets her mind to. Congratulations, Karen on your academic success.