It had been more than 25 years since Sandra Schumacher had stepped into a classroom when she enrolled in the Social Service Worker course at Fanshawe College in Simcoe.
Post-secondary institutions across Canada report a growing number of mature students who are choosing to study full-time in order to find new careers or increase their competitive edge in the job market.
Sandra, a 50-year-old Fisherville, Ontario resident admits to being a little intimidated at the prospect of continuing her education. But she soon realized she was in good company.
"It turns out that two-thirds of the class were over 40," said Sandra, who graduated from the two-year program in April 2015.
Sandra grew up on a dairy farm and graduated from Cayuga Secondary School. In 1989, she graduated from a general business program at Mohawk College.
Sandra worked in retail for many years but was forced to leave her job in 2007 for health reasons.
"I always wanted to return to school. I volunteered at my church and really liked working with children."
It turned out Sandra's real passion is helping those on the other end of the age spectrum.
A placement at a senior care facility in Dunnville has led her to work in that field.
Sandra was assisted by the St. Leonard's Community Services employment centre in Caledonia to learn new job search skills.
"Sandra has had to overcome a number of health concerns," said Jenna Bahr, of St. Leonard's who nominated her as one of this year's Education Works Champions. "She also returned to school as an adult learner, then had to find employment after being unemployed for many years.
"She did it with persistence, kindness and grace."
Sandra said college was a "great learning experience" and her family is proud of her achievement.