Teresa Kemp said it never felt right telling her children about the importance of education knowing she hadn’t finished high school.
When the Port Dover resident found herself laid off from a long-time job in retail, she decided to make some big changes.
“I felt like a hypocrite telling my boys they had to stay in school when I knew I hadn’t graduated. I tell them you struggle in life working for minimum wage. It’s not what I wanted for them.”
Kemp was 18 when she left high school just two credits shy of earning her diploma. She started working, then got married and had a family. Before she knew it she had been working a decade at a retail store in Port Dover that was about to close.
“I tried to get my credits through online correspondence courses but I couldn’t do it with my family and full-time work. But when the store closed I got the opportunity.”
Teresa enrolled in academic upgrading at the Simcoe campus of Fanshawe College where she earned her credits, graduating last October.
“She wanted to feel proud of herself and knew that knowledge is power and would make her feel confident and give her a more marketable resume,” said Tracey McIntyre of Fanshawe who nominated Teresa as one of this year’s Education WORKS Champions.
Teresa is still at Fanshawe, now working toward a diploma in the personal support worker program, with financial assistance from Second Career.
“When I turned 30 I had a little mid-life crisis,” she said. “I set some goals for myself. One of them was that by the time I turned 35 I wanted to be enrolled in college or graduated.” Now 32, Teresa is ahead of schedule. She will complete the eight-month PSW course in August.
The work has been rewarding but it hasn’t come without challenges.
Returning to school has created financial pressures and meant juggling school responsibilities with an active home life. But Teresa said she’s received lots of support from her husband and sister. And she said her sons, aged 11 and eight, think it’s “pretty cool” to do homework with their mom.
“Teresa was so helpful with other students, motivating others and sharing her story while encouraging others that they too could do what she had done,” said McIntyre.
Photo by Brian Thompson, Brantford Expositor