Katie Pepper has learned not to dwell on past mistakes, to move forward and to take pride in her achievements.
Within the last year or so, Katie has boosted her skills, completed her high school equivalency and started a new program at Fanshawe College at its Simcoe/Norfolk Regional Campus, which she plans to graduate from later this year.
The reason for her newfound commitment to education has been her son, Torrin, now 3, wanting to make a better life for both of them.
"I want to show him that even if you make a mistake, you are able to fix the mistake and move forward," says Katie, explaining that dropping out of secondary school is one of her biggest regrets.
"After all the years of not being in school and beating myself up for some choices, I feel very proud of my efforts and achievements, and know that there is more in my future!"
Katie has been selected as a 2017 Education Champion by the Education WORKS Alliance, after being nominated jointly by the Haldimand Norfolk Adult Learning Centre and Fanshawe College.
Katie, 27, left high school before completing her diploma. But with help from friends and from local agencies, she got back on the road to gaining an education.
As a young mother needing to raise her son, Katie has relied on Ontario Works for financial support. She was eager to take actions to improve herself and her life, working hard to achieve her goal of being a college graduate and finding employment.
The first step of that journey involved working with the Haldimand-Norfolk Adult Learning Centre, run by Haldimand-Norfolk Literacy Council, to improve her basic skills and to gain self-confidence. The next step was to work with Fanshawe College's Youth Job Connection and Literacy and Basic Skills programs. The two organizations nominated Katie as an Education Champion.
This helped prepare Katie to write her General Educational Development (GED) test, which she passed in August 2016, giving her the equivalent of a Grade 12 diploma.
Earlier this month, Katie started the Health Care Office Assistant Certificate program at Fanshawe in Simcoe, with a Fall graduation date in mind.
The Simcoe resident is thankful for staff at the Haldimand-Norfolk Adult Learning Centre and Fanshawe College for helping her "come out of her shell," supporting and motivating her - helping her realize she can do anything she sets her mind to.
She has needed that determination to face challenges such as finding child care and getting to and from school without a vehicle. Family, friends and her boyfriend have helped her, providing support, rides and favours along the way.
Katie is now willing to share her "can-do" attitude with other people, some of whom may face similar obstacles or may need motivation.
"You can never learn enough. You can never have too much education – and you should never let anyone stop you."
Story by Mark Skeffington, Education WORKS Alliance