For many mature students, it’s the toil of hard labour that leads them to back to the classroom.
That was the case for Tammy Turalitsch who, at age 34, decided that being a machine operator at a cabinet-making business wasn’t work from which she wanted to retire.
“I couldn’t see myself doing it when I was 65.”
So last year, Tammy enrolled at Grand Erie Learning Alternatives (GELA) where she signed up for a full course load and an aim to graduate with her Ontario Secondary School Diploma.
No small feat for a mother of six with children aged 18, 17, 16, eight, six, and two.
By the time she was 17, Tammy had two children and decided to leave high school in Brantford.
Over the years, she ran a home daycare and took on various factory jobs. “Finally, I decided I should probably do better for myself and my children,” she said.
Noella Botelho of Grand Erie Learning Alternatives, who nominated Tammy as one of this year’s Education WORKS Champions, said that with her formidable responsibilities at home, Tammy “reminded herself every day that she was at school to better her life and those of her children.She pushed on and reminded herself that the struggles she facing in the present were worth the reward in the future.”
Returning to school meant Tammy had to budget her money, said Noella, otherwise she’d have to return to work.
“That meant sacrifices for herself and her family.” Noella said Tammy relied heavily on her family for support, “feeding off of their positive energy.” She also sought out advice from the guidance office at GELA and CareerLink in Brantford to find out which programs she was eligible for and which ones she could pursue beyond Grade 12.
“She made many friends at GELA who worked together as a support system emotionally and academically,” said Noella.
Tammy has earned 11 credits and is currently working on the final one for her diploma.
She also participated in a Peer Support Tutor credit, working in a math classroom Monday to Friday helping other students.
In June, Tammy, along with her second eldest daughter, will officially graduate high school.
“It feels great,” she said. “There were lots of tired nights but it feels like I finally accomplished something.”
Tammy plans to enrol in the business program at Conestoga College in September with an eye to opening her own indoor/outdoor paintball centre that will “give Brantford teens something to do.”
“People who are going back to school should stick it out,” said Tammy. “It’s the best thing they will ever do for themselves and their family. There is a real sense of pride.”
Photo by Brian Thompson, Brantford Expositor