In our first year of recognizing Education Works Champions, we received 21 nominations from the community. These were truly inspirational stories about amazing people, many of whom have beaten the odds to achieve their dreams; stories about people who show that Education Works.
Our 2012 Champions range in age from 19 to 60. Many of these Champions have had to overcome huge hurdles to achieve their goals: lack of money, job losses, family issues, personal challenges, lack of confidence, and more.
They didn't let these things stand in their way. They showed courage, perseverance, resourcefulness and sometimes plain stubbornness to achieve their goals and dreams.
They show that anything is possible.
Ontario Scholar, scholarship winner, award winner, college student – these words all describe Chyvonne Evans. But it’s Chyvonne’s personal story – a story of determination -- that make these achievement stand out, especially since she was once a high school dropout. The 20-year-old single mother of two young daughters had to work incredibly hard in a short period of time to earn nine high school credits so she could obtain her Ontario Secondary School Diploma and get into college. Chyvonne attended the School Within A College (SWAC) program at Mohawk College. Students earn both high school and college credits through the alternative education program. She credits the SWAC program for changing her life. “There’s not even a word to describe yow great that program is,” she says. “The teachers believe in you. They treat you like adults.” “I definitely didn’t have my confidence,” she says of her high school days. “I gained it back and now I’m good.”
When Bill Isherwood lost his job in 2008 he was devastated but the 53-year-old realized it was an opportunity to change careers and pursue something that had always been at the back of his mind. "Even though I didn't see it as an opportunity at first, losing my job allowed me to return to school to update my skills and pursue a career that I had always wanted," Bill says now. "I have nothing but good things to say about my learning experience." Because of his layoff, Bill was able to obtain Second Career funding to go to Mohawk College, where he obtained his CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing) Automated Machining and Design Certificate in 2010. Bill graduated with top honours in his Mohawk program, with an average of 97%. Now, Bill works in his new field as a CAD Technician at Matrixx Specialized Trailer in Brantford.
Amanda Joseph celebrated her 30th birthday by becoming the first of 14 siblings in her family to get their Grade 12 diploma. "It makes me feel pretty awesome," Amanda says of graduating. Since then, Amanda's happy that one of her brothers has followed her example and is now working to finish his Grade 12. "It was really nice to be a leader, to get the ball rolling," she says. The Six Nations woman graduated from Grand Erie Learning Alternatives - City Centre Campus, Adult Education as valedictorian, as voted by her classmates. It was a well-deserved honour for Amanda, whose hard work, attendance, leadership, high marks and classroom involvement also impressed her teachers.
Kevin Russell sees his apprenticeship as a millwright as a ticket to a better life for him and his family. After being laid off from his job in the automotive industry in 2008, Kevin Russell, a Jarvis resident ,got a rude wake-up call. There he was in his 40s, with a wife and kids and few job prospects, especially without his Grade 12 (like many people, he left secondary school early to work). Because he had been laid off and was receiving unemployment insurance – for the first time in his life – Kevin qualified for government aid to go back to school. After hearing about the Second Career program through the Return to Work Action Centre in Simcoe, Kevin investigated new career options. He saw the best prospect as a millwright. Kevin completed the Grade 12 equivalency certificate through Fanshawe College's James N. Allan campus in Simcoe offered through a mix of on-line and in class sessions. Kevin then enrolled in the two-year Co-op Diploma Apprenticeship millwright program at Fanshawe. Now, with a college diploma under his belt and his apprenticeship, Kevin is in a good situation, well on his way to a rewarding and well-paying new career.
Ronnie Gerrard's mantra is lifelong learning. Ronnie is an educational assistant with the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board. And she practices what she preaches -- or teaches. "I tell my own students that I, too, am a student and that I always will be a student," says Ronnie, who works in a job skills classroom at St. John's College in Brantford. Ronnie, who is in her 50s, was feeling especially proud in late 2010, when she graduated from Fanshawe College's James N. Allan campus in Simcoe with a Leadership Management Diploma from the continuing education department. The Paris resident got the itch to add to her education many years ago, after taking a training course sponsored by the Brantford & District Labour Council, an organization she has long been active in. So in 2002, Ronnie signed up for a course called Leadership Training in the Workplace at Fanshawe. For eight straight years, she took another course each September in the leadership program.
Adrian Mezinski has become hooked on education just a couple years after struggling in high school. Mezinski, 19, is in his fourth semester of a Computer Sciences Software Development program at Mohawk College. And he's already thinking ahead to his next education options: a university degree in digital design or courses in video game design, music production, maybe even art. "I'm going to be a student for a long time," he says, laughing. The Brantford man's enthusiasm is surprising considering he was floundering in secondary school not too long ago. He was skipping classes, lacked motivation and focus, and didn't appear like he would graduate. He was seven credits short. He found a new sense of direction when he enrolled in the SWAC program, which offers both secondary school credits and college credits. He gradually went from simply attending classes to participating, and then working hard to get high grades and sharing his enthusiasm with other students.