On a folded sticky note is written the first “A” Catherine Spain was given on an assignment in Fanshawe College’s personal support worker program.
Now working in the field, she still carries the note with her.
It’s a reminder of how far she has come.
“It meant a lot,” said the 49-year-old Waterford resident.
School wasn’t always a place Catherine wanted to be. She left at 15 and started working – as a waitress and at various factory jobs – before realizing “I needed to do something different.”
In 1996, she attended Fanshawe to get her Grade 12 equivalency, returning two years later to the college’s general business program.
“At this time, she felt she had the maturity to truly embrace the changes that education could make for her that she hadn’t appreciated enough as a young person because she had to be there,” said Fanshawe’s Tracey McIntyre, who nominated Catherine as one of this year’s Education WORKS Champions.
But it was just last year that Catherine decided she wanted “a career, not just a job.”
“I wanted to change my life. I wanted to give back.”
After caring for her sick mother-in-law, Catherine returned to Fanshawe in Simcoe to pursue her dream of being a personal support worker.
She juggled a minimum wage retail job with her studies to help support her family while she returned to the classroom.
Catherine graduated from the PSW program in August with a 3.52 grade point average and missed just a single day of classes. After completing the program, she sought help from Fanshawe’s Community Career and Employment Services where she participated in job find clubs, mock interviews, and resume and cover letter creation. She received three job offers and is now working with developmentally disabled adults in Simcoe.She was selected by her co-workers as the placement student showing the most promise.
“Cathy simply glows when discussing how her life has evolved due to her educational pursuits,” said Tracey.
“She worked hard for her achievements and is now reaping the rewards, including a job she loves, co-workers she respects and who respect her, and the ability to model to friends and family the difference one can make in their life through the power of education.” And Catherine isn’t sure her educational journey is complete just yet. She is contemplating a return to the classroom to get her certification as a developmental services worker.
“This is something I should have been doing all along.”
Photo by Brian Thompson, Brantford Expositor