Stephanie Drewery says school saved her when everything else in her life seemed to be falling apart.
After high school, she seemed to be moving along a traditional educational path when she enrolled in the Police Foundations program at Niagara College and, a year later, in Laurier Brantford's Leadership Program.
But it didn't take long before Stephanie realized the university program wasn't the right fit for her.
She was pregnant at the time and facing the reality of being a single parent.
At the age of 20, Stephanie moved back to her parents' home. She had her baby in 2008 but didn't take a break from school or her job, afraid that if she did, she would lose her momentum.
Stephanie said she lost many friends, had relationship difficulties with her family, and suffered from severe postpartum depression. She also became involved with some people who had a negative influence on her life.
Working with a guidance counsellor who helped identify the right program for her, Stephanie switched to a double major in criminology and contemporary studies and a minor in psychology.
"Never give up," said Stephanie. "It's worth it in the long run. Talk to a guidance counsellor -- they can help you down the path of education. It has benefited my life and my family members' lives. It is the best thing I ever did."
While at Laurier, Stephanie worked as an administrative assistant at the Sexual Assault Centre of Brant, where she provided crisis intervention for women and took calls on the crisis line.
The experience led her to enroll in a part-time Bachelor of Social Work program at the University of Waterloo, while working full time at Grand River Community Health Centre as a counsellor.
Stephanie takes every training opportunity available to her. She has completed Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Levels 1 and 2, obtained certificates in trauma counselling, cognitive behaviour therapy, assisted suicide intervention, and counselling for trans individuals, and has Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities training.
Next up is completing a master's degree in social work.
"Her experiences have helped her be the counsellor she is today," said JoAnne Dubois. "She can draw on her life experiences when assisting others and demonstrates a non-judgemental approach, a great deal of compassion and empathy for her clients."
Story by Jaymie Nelson
Photo by Keepsake Photography