Becoming a young father may have altered Justin Taite’s educational pursuits, but it didn’t derail them.
Just 17 when his son was born, Justin left high school to help support the baby.
That work turned out to be mostly temporary jobs doing general labour.A year later he was introduced to masonry.
It was labour-intensive work but he enjoyed it. Because it is fairly weather dependent, however, he frequently found himself unemployed.
That’s when Justin decided to get the four credits he needed to earn his Ontario Secondary School Diploma at Grand Erie Learning Alternatives (GELA), which offers a wide variety of credit courses.
“Not having a high school diploma wasn’t holding me back in terms of finding work, but getting it was an accomplishment,” said Justin.
At the same time, the Brantford resident completed all the requirements of LEAP, Learning, Earning and Parenting – an employment program through Ontario Works Brant, which supports young parents under age 26 to overcome the barriers they face to earn their high school diploma.
Justin credits the supportive staff at GELA to helping him get through the adjustment of returning to the classroom after several years.
“My brain wasn’t used to it,” he said with a laugh. “But it all came back to me.”
Courtney Montgomery of Ontario Works, who nominated Justin as one of this year’s Education WORKS Champions, said he was committed to his studies while being a full-time, sole-support parent.
“Justin had excellent attendance, drive and ambition that made him successful,” said Courtney. “He will have a bright future.”
After graduation, Justin turned to CareerLink Community Employment Centre where he attended workshops to better his job finding skills.
“I created a resume and handed them out and I got a call back right away.”
Now working at a factory job in Brantford that Justin said is helping get him on his feet financially, he is considering a return to masonry.
“I haven’t really made any big career decisions yet.”
In the meantime, Justin is a role model to his six-year-old son, demonstrating that there is no barrier to learning that can’t be overcome. “As the years go on, education is becoming even more important,” he said.
Photo by Brian Thompson, Brantford Expositor