Grade 12 graduates can be 17, 18 or even 55 years of age.
On Wednesday, June 6, Lisa Stewart graduated at the same time as her daughter, Colissa St. Louis, at the Northwest Community College in Prince Rupert.
“I was in the fishing industry for a lot of years and when I tried looking for work I couldn’t help but notice that with everything you needed a Grade 12 diploma for this and that,” Stewart said, while sitting next to her daughter in cap and gown.
Before upgrading as an adult, Stewart had a Grade 8 education. As a young girl, her grandfather told her he was proud of her for getting a job at one of the fishing plants, but she remembers him telling her: “‘There’s going to come a time when you’re going to need Grade 12 to pick up garbage in the city,’ and he was absolutely right,” she said.
She tried to go back to school many times, but it was math that scared her. She would quit, walk away, try again, and repeat. It wasn’t until she was in her fifties that she clicked with the instructors at Northwest Community College. She attributes her success to her math teacher, Trudy Dolan, who, she said, adapted to her style of learning.
“She taught me to find different ways of explaining things in a way that she would understand. I’ve got to have a bunch of tricks in my pocket to explain math concepts,” Dolan said.
“It was a struggle at times just trying to convince her that she can do it and you have to put the time into it. Putting that regular time in at home. Toward the end it clicked.”
Since Stewart completed her Grade 12 English before math, she was able to tap into first year university courses, such as psychology and First Nations studies.
Upgrading her education took her four years, but with the bonus of taking university level credit courses. She now has 12 credits toward an associative arts degree. So what’s next for Stewart?
“I can’t believe I want more. For somebody who kept taking off and not wanting to go there, and now it’s like, role model right here [to her daughter] and it’s crazy that she’s like a role model to me,” she said with a big smile.
Her daughter, St. Louis, just completed her business administration diploma, and plans to continue her education by going for her human resource and labour relations degree, all while raising her young son and working at the grain terminal.
“I’ll do that part-time even if it takes me five years,” St. Louis said.
While convocation was a big day for St. Louis, she said she’s more excited for her mom.
The adult Dogwood Diploma is offered at the Northwest Community College for anyone who needs to upgrade their education. Students need to have a Grade 12 level English, Grade 11 math and three Grade 12 equivalent electives to graduate.
Courses are paid for by the provincial government.
“K-12 education is free, it doesn’t matter if you’re an adult,” said Mercedes de la Nuez, career college preparation coordinator at Northwest Community College.
Mature students can apply for the adult upgrading grant (AUG), and depending on their income, or how many dependents they have, they’re eligible for more funding that can go toward books, bus passes, even school supplies.
Stewart was sponsored by her band, Gingolx, and she was part of the AUG program. She encourages anyone who hasn’t graduated to go back to school to get their adult Dogwood for free.
Advisors are around all summer at the college to help students who want to upgrade their education in the fall and winter months.