In the last two years, Courtney Childs has learned how to replace low self-esteem with pride and self-doubt with confidence.
The difference maker has been her decision to go back to school, completing what she hadn't finished - Grade 12 - and starting new studies, at a community college.
"I feel so liberated. I feel free from the bars (lack of education) that held me back before," Courtney said.
"I have come from being an addict at a very young age and thinking that I did not deserve or was not worth being the person that I have become. But I now know that I am worth so much more, and that I am capable of obtaining anything in this world."
Courtney has been selected as a 2017 Education Champion by Education WORKS Alliance, after being nominated by Ontario Works Brant.
Courtney, 27, didn't finish secondary school when she was younger, and then had a son, named Lennon, when she was 24. Lennon, now 3, gave his mother a new purpose and new determination.
The Brantford woman went back to school last year, enrolling at Grand Erie Learning Alternatives (GELA) to complete the seven credits she needed to get her Grade 12 diploma.
With support from her Ontario Works caseworker, family, friends and teachers, Courtney began to thrive at the alternative school. She even ended up with two awards, including one that was a cash award to help pay for continuing education.
Courtney enrolled in the Medical Offices Practices certificate program at Conestoga College in Brantford, an 8-month program she'll graduate from this April.
Getting to the point of graduating from college hasn't been easy. It was difficult to be both a single mom around the clock, while being a full-time student in school. Seeing her son go to daycare and pre-school wasn't easy either, after spending so much time with him since birth.
Courtney feels thankful to all those who helped her along the way, and her new-found confidence will help her as she starts looking for work in health care when she graduates.
"I feel like I am worth more. I feel more intelligent because I have been given the opportunity to prove myself – to myself. I have gained a heightened sense of self and I now know the feeling of great accomplishment."
Story by Mark Skeffington, Education WORKS Alliance