Thursday, June 27 will be a day over 30 years in the making for Port Colborne resident Richelle.
That’s when the 49-year-old will stand up in front of her mother, her fiancé, her family, and officially receive her high school diploma at the Lifetime Learning Centre graduation ceremony in St. Catharines.
“I’m nervous, but excited,” smiled Richelle.
Richelle has spent a large part of the past three years earning the credits needed for her diploma through the DSBN’s EdVance program located inside the Port Cares building in Port Colborne.
The EdVance Outreach program is designed for mature students not currently enrolled in a high school program.
Teacher Cassandra Biernacki said the program provides 1-on-1 support to students looking to earn high school credits.
“The strength of the program is its flexibility. We give students modifications and accommodations where needed. If they’re struggling to complete their work, students can drop in any time to receive that personal help,” said Biernacki.
Richelle credits that flexibility, coupled with Biernacki’s support, for helping her persevere and continue her education.
She wished she’d had someone like Biernacki in her life all those years ago, when, as a 16-year-old growing up in Fort Erie, she made the decision to leave school early.
“My parents were divorced and I lived with my dad. But I never felt like he had any faith in me.”
“I was having a lot of problems at home. I just couldn’t take it any longer so I left,” she said.
The instability in her home life naturally affected her academic performance, which led to Richelle’s ultimate decision to leave school.
For a brief period, Richelle worked with her mother at a local hotel before having children and raising a family.
It was her family and fiancé that helped her make the ultimate decision to return to school and complete her diploma.
“My children graduated before me, which is ok. But there’s no way I was going to let my grandchildren graduate before me!” smiled Richelle.
Richelle’s mother Sandy said her daughter’s come a long way in the past ten years.
“She’s faced some real adversity in her life, but I am so proud of how she’s persevered.”
To keep pushing forward, Richelle found it helpful to find joy in all her successes, both big and small.
Richelle has an undiagnosed condition that makes concentrating on any one task difficult for any real length of time.
Previously, sitting down to read a book would have been a monumental effort.
Since enrolling in the EdVance program three years ago, Richelle takes great pride in having read a number of different books on a variety of subjects.
However, her favourite genre is mystery.
“I really like James Patterson. Just when you think you’ve figured it all out, the story takes a twist and it just blows your mind,” said Richelle.
Having completed her high school diploma, Richelle is already thinking about what the future may hold.
“I would like to get a job. Probably in customer service. I get along well with others and think that’s something I would enjoy.”
Richelle has some advice for anyone in her position thinking about returning to school to complete their diploma - don’t give up.
“I was scared about coming back. I was scared that I wouldn’t get good grades and that it wouldn’t work out. But Cassandra made me feel so comfortable right away. It helped give me the confidence to continue.”
“And I did it!”
There are EdVance program locations available in Beamsville, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Welland, Fort Erie, and Port Colborne.
The EdVance program is available to anyone over 18.
Those who are 18-20 are asked to contact their last DSBN high school to obtain a referral for the program.
Anyone over 21 can call 905-688-7000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about registering.
There is no cost to enroll and participate in EdVance.