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2015 Champion Helena Janzen

Pursuit of education a family project

Helena Janzen rs Helena Janzen and her husband, Jake, have a bit of a pact to advance their education.

After Jake finished trade school where he studied heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC), the 27-year-old mother of three daughters decided to work toward earning her Grade 12 diploma.

Helena, who lives in Port Burwell, left high school in Grade 10. She found work at an egg farm in Elmira and at other jobs that didn’t require a diploma.

With her youngest daughter now three, Helena began attending Grand Erie Learning Alternatives (GELA) classes at The Mission Church in Frogmore, in connection with the Moms and Tots program offering English as a Second Language in the community.

She drives three days a week to the church for her studies.

“Helena is a motivated learner,” said Megan Gates of GELA who nominated her as an Education WORKS Champion.

Helena said she was able to use a lot of her life experience as credit toward her diploma. She is halfway through completing four credits, including her Grade 11 math and English and Grade 12 English.

“I want the best life for my children,” she said. “I don’t want them to have the excuse that their mom never went to high school. Education is so important. It’s everything when you are trying to look for a brighter future.

The girls are giving me quite a bit of support and showing me a lot of respect when I’m doing my schoolwork.” Helena has plans to go on to college but is still uncertain of what she will study.

For many in Grand Erie Grand Erie Learning Alternatives (GELA) is the first stop for someone looking to complete their high school education.

GELA provides a number of options for people looking to go back to complete their secondary school diploma, including day school, full time, part time (morning or afternoon), night school, summer school, Independent Learning and E-learning. There are locations in Brantford, Simcoe and Six Nations, for students.

All new students need to have a guidance appointment with a counsellor at GELA to determine the courses needed. And older students may qualify for “maturity credits” through Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR).

Prior learning takes into account the knowledge and skills that students have acquired, in both formal and informal ways, outside school.

Remember as the teachers often say at GELA, it's never too late to graduate.

For more information on GELA, visit:

Photo by Brian Thompson, Brantford Expositor