When Stephanie Lerno was laid off in the spring of 2016, she soon saw it as an opportunity, not a defeat.
Stephanie went back to school and graduated from Mohawk College’s Personal Support Worker program, and she is now working in her field assisting a private client who has ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The 28-year-old Brantford woman has been selected as a 2018 Education Champion by the Education WORKS Alliance, after being nominated by CareerLink Community Employment Centre in Brantford.
“My No. 1 reason for going back to school was to prove to not only to me, but to my kids, it’s possible,” says the mother of four.
“Anything is possible if you set your mind to it. I wanted to have a career and make a better life for my family.”
Stephanie was eligible to apply to Second Career because of her layoff. The program, funded by the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, provides funding so someone who has lost their job can return to school and learn new skills for a new career. Funding helps pay for tuition, books and some living expenses, with a plan geared towards an individual’s personal circumstances and needs.
Returning to school 10 years after finishing secondary school meant Stephanie didn’t have as much time to spend with her children – she missed them. “My biggest obstacles to further my education was having young children and missing that time with them,” she says.
But with support from her wider family and a lot of persistence, she carried on, understanding that short-term sacrifices can lead to long-term benefits. She also received ongoing support from the instructors in the PSW program.
“Going back to school was a struggle, but going back has made me so confident and very proud of myself,” she says.
“Going back to school to get a career is the best thing you can do for yourself.”
Stephanie is now focused on her PSW career. She hopes to find a full-time, permanent job working with people, helping people. And she is interested in going back to school in the future.
Story by Mark Skeffington, Education WORKS Alliance