When Christine Julien-Martin was laid off from her retail job a year ago, her self-confidence took a hit and her spirits sank.
But through her layoff, Christine heard about the Second Career program, which helps people laid off start new careers.
"It sparked my interest and gave me a feeling of hope," the Norfolk County resident says, looking back. "This was my chance to make a change in my life, to make a decision that would better myself and my family."
Christine has been selected as a 2017 Education Champion by the Education WORKS Alliance, after being nominated by Fanshawe College.
Christine was able to use the Second Career program to go back to school, enrolling with Fanshawe College's Simcoe/Norfolk Regional campus for the Health Care Office Assistant certificate program. She has taken some courses at Fanshawe's Woodstock campus and others in Simcoe; she expects to graduate this May.
Going back to school for the 38-year-old mother of three wasn't easy, but her family made adjustments to help her, and her neighbours even lent a hand.
Her husband, Eric, who worked out of the area, found a job closer to home, allowing him to help more with Hollie (10) and Morgan (4); oldest son Wyatt attends Queen's University in Kingston. "Every day Eric tells me how proud he is of me for having the courage to go back to school."
To get herself ready to go to college, Christine worked on her computer skills, taking a drop-in course offered by Fanshawe's Literacy and Basic Skills upgrading program.
Her son Wyatt, who started university at the same time his mom was starting college, is one of her biggest supporters and they share homework stories, laughing about their challenging assignments. Hollie asks her mom how school was each day and does a "happy dance" when her mom gets a good mark on a test or assignment.
"It feels so great to have my kids proud of me, and that is an award in itself," Christine says.
"I feel a sense of worth that I am showing my children that education is important. I will have the skills to get just not a job, but be in a career that I will enjoy and help provide for my family."
Story by Mark Skeffington, Education WORKS Alliance
Photo by The Expositor