Danita Hibbs has come a long way from being a single mom with three kids and a Grade 8 education to someone who will soon be a social worker.
The 51-year-old Brantford woman is in her third year of the Honours Bachelor of Social Work at Laurier Brantford, with a minor in Indigenous studies, all the while working in a full-time job. When she graduates, she will be the first person in her family to have finished university.
Throughout her life, Danita has overcome obstacles – including living with Multiple Sclerosis - and refused to listen to people who told her she "could not make it." She's proven those people wrong again and again and again.
"Initially, I was afraid that I was not smart enough to go to school and now nothing stands in my way!" she says. "I remind myself of all that I have come through and I dig a little deeper and find strength."
Danita has been selected as a 2017 Education Champion by Education WORKS Alliance, after being nominated by her workplace, Rosewood House.
Years ago, she found herself living on her own with three children, no income and limited education, so she started cleaning houses during the day and driving taxis at night to make ends meet. Danita also endured an unhealthy marriage and money issues, including being ineligible for student loans because she had to declare bankruptcy.
But Danita went back to school as a mature student, earning first a Human Services diploma and then a Social Service Worker diploma at Conestoga College during the years 2007 - 2010. From college, she went to university, still interested in helping others with mental health and addictions issues.
"It has always been my dream to become a Social Worker," she says. "I will open my own counselling practice and 20% of my services will be at no charge. Not everyone can afford this type of service and yet everyone deserves to be helped along in their journey."
Danita would be paying forward for the help and support she's received along the way. She is particularly thankful that a social worker helped her when she was younger and living on the streets. Her family and friends have also always been there for her.
Rosewood House, which provides supportive housing for individuals with mental health or addiction issues, has been a "saving grace," allowing Danita to adjust her shifts as the facility's Systems Manager. Her co-worker Marion McGeein nominated Danita.
She plans to take some time off before tackling a Masters in Indigenous studies and pursuing her dream of opening a counselling practice to help others.
After such a difficult life, Danita serves as a true ambassador for the power of education and how it can lift someone out of poverty and despair, and how it can help someone achieve their dreams. She wants others to know this.
"While you may be facing unimaginable challenges, you are stronger than you think," she says. "You are every bit as worthy as anyone else."
Story by Mark Skeffington, Education WORKS Alliance