When Sofia da Silva first looked at resuming her education she was focused on one thing: getting her Grade 12 diploma.
Sofia was adamant that she wasn't interested in schooling past Grade 12.
Today, Sofia is happy she was persuaded to look beyond secondary school, and is proud that she is achieving high marks in the Police Foundations diploma program at Mohawk College in Hamilton.
The Brantford woman is now a firm believer in believing in yourself.
"You have to believe in yourself and find that inner confidence in yourself so that you can become successful," she says. "Never limit yourself or your expectations. Great things can be achieved with continued education. Opportunities are all around us, and it's up to us as individuals to make them reality."
Sofia has been selected as a 2017 Education Champion by Education WORKS Alliance, after being nominated by Ontario Works Brant.
The 22-year-old's road to believing in herself was a long one.
The single mother faced challenges raising her now 2-year-old son while on Ontario Works, dealing with conflict with her ex-partner, and barriers related to transportation and childcare.
Sofia participated in the LEAP (Learning, Earning and Parenting) program offered through Ontario Works Brant to young parents who have not completed high school. The program helps people finish Grade 12, prepare for the job market, and improve their parenting skills.
For the Parenting component of LEAP, Sofia used the services of the Brant County Health Unit, which offers a Healthy Babies program, and the Ontario Early Years Centre. She also took advantage of programs offered by the Brantford Public Library.
For the Earning component, she worked with Turning Point, an alternative education program offered by the Grand Erie District School Board. And then there was Learning to complete Grade 12.
All along, Sofia was motivated to work hard by her son, wanting to do right by him. Wanting the best for her son still motivates Sofia as she pushes herself to make the Dean's Honour List at Mohawk and look beyond college to further education, possibly in Criminology.
"Since pursuing further education I have become more confident in myself. I feel as though my dreams aren't just dreams anymore, but are slowly becoming a reality."
Story by Mark Skeffington, Education WORKS Alliance