A difficult early life created a winding life path for Brantford’s Melissa McKown.
She became a Crown ward at age 12, a circumstance she now says contributed to her rebelling and hanging out with the wrong crowd.
Dropping out of school at 16 led to call centre work and a series of minimum wage jobs.
As is often the case, it was the birth of a child – she had a daughter in 2012 – that prompted Melissa to really consider the future.“I needed to something better for my girl.”
Melissa had attended school sporadically over the past several years, earning enough credits to complete Grade 11.
She also completed all the requirements for 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.
LEAP participants are also involved in community programs to enhance their parenting skills and the program provides opportunities to gain work experience.
Melissa turned to Grand Erie Learning Alternatives to complete the requirements for a Grade 12 diploma and has just started the first semester of the office administrative executive program at Mohawk College in Hamilton.
“While I was in school I decided to go on to college,” she said. “I did some research into job prospects and wages and decided on office administration work.”
Now a mother of two, Melissa “worked to maintain her education through the birth of her children, illness of an infant and illness of her spouse,” said Courtney Montgomery of Ontario Works who nominated her as an Education WORKS Champion. “Melissa held the household and herself together through all of this and managed to slowly work on her Grade 12 diploma.”
The 26-year-old also continues to work with the local Children’s Aid Society as a mentor and friend to other Crown wards.
“I already tell my daughters about the importance of education. The last thing you want to do is try to finish it when you have other responsibilities and don’t have the time.”
Photo by Brian Thompson, Brantford Expositor