The odds of Amber Aitken-Graham staying in school were definitely against her.
Pregnant at 15 and dealing with physical and mental abuse and homelessness, she said most people had little hope she’d earn her high school diploma any time soon.
But with a tenacity even she isn’t sure how she mustered, Amber is now a Grade 12 graduate who is considering a post-secondary education.
“Everybody doubted me,” said the now 19-year-old, one of this year’s Education WORKS Champions. “And that made me more determined.”
Amber continued to attend high school in Brantford until the birth of her son in January 2012. She returned eight months later to earn the rest of the credits she needed to graduate, doing her studies both at school and at home.
She remained at high school until 2014 when she fled an abusive situation with her son.
“Amber has worked hard on getting back on track,” said Courtney Montgomery of Ontario Works, who nominated Amber as an Education Champion. “She has never lost sight of her goal.”
In addition to earning her diploma, Amber completed all the requirements for LEAP, Learning, Earning and Parenting, an employment program through Ontario Works Brant, which supports young parents under 26 to overcome the barriers they face to earn their high school diploma.
LEAP participants are also involved in community programs to enhance their parenting skills.
“Amber has struggled with her family life as well as being a sole support parent,” said Courtney. “She is a strong, motivated individual. She is a good role model for her son, as well as others who feel life is in the way of an education. She is an inspiration to us all.”
Amber is now ready to apply for college but still considering her major. She’d like to work with children and may enrol in a community and justice services program.
Photo by Brian Thompson, Brantford Expositor