In just four years, Janet Wissink went from being a data entry clerk to a mature student with a college diploma and a bachelor of arts degree.
Janet, who lives in Brantford, was a high school graduate who studied dental assisting many years ago. When she became the mother of two daughters she stayed at home for several years.
She re-entered the workforce with a job at a cabinetmaking facility after her children started school.
"My job wasn't going anywhere and I always wanted to improve my education," said Janet. "I was 42 years old when I quit. It was hard to do. It was scary."
Janet enrolled in the Human Resources diploma program at Fanshawe College, borrowing against her RRSPs in the lifelong learning program offered by the bank. She also received OSAP, bursaries and various awards.
One of the financial gifts was the First Generation Bursary from Laurier Brantford -- where she later attended -- for being the first person in her family to earn a post-secondary education.
"Another challenge for Janet was her mental health," said Mikki Basha of St. Leonard's Community Services in Brantford who nominated her as one of this year's Education WORKS Champions. "Janet suffers from depression and moving to a new city and going to college with younger people was difficult. Janet has worked since she was 18 years old and not having a regular pay cheque was also a shock to her."
Janet received help through Fanshawe's counselling program and ageism/mature student program.
She excelled at college, graduating with a GPA above 90%.
Janet then enrolled in Laurier Brantford's Organizational Leadership program and, after receiving credit for her college courses, graduated in April 2015.
She graduated with distinction and won the Laurier Alumni Gold Medal for having the highest GPA in her faculty.
Janet, now 46, is working at her first human resources job, on a contract with the City of Brantford. Human resources is a broad-ranging field and she is still considering in which sector she will specialize.
"I highly recommend going to back to school for those feeling stuck or looking for a change," said Janet. It's not impossible to do.
"Especially in North America where we've really moved from a manufacturing to a technology-based work situation. If you want to get anywhere, have any chance of advancement, you pretty much have to have an education."
Photo by Brian Thompson, Brantford Expositor