Life can be difficult when you haven’t graduated from high school.
It’s doubly difficult when you’re raising young children.
But in Cranbrook, the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy is offering young parents a chance to complete their secondary education in partnership with College of the Rockies.
“It was set up because we have a large population of parents who have not graduated, now realizing they can’t move forward,” says literacy co-ordinator Katherine Hough.
“They have limited employment opportunities and some have realized their own children will be attending school in the near future and they won’t be able to help them because they themselves haven’t finished Grade 12.”
Three years ago, the Literacy Alliance started a program for mothers and fathers between the ages of 16 and 25, and then opened it up to older parents with pre-school and school-age children, who found it difficult to commit to adult basic education.
Under the young parents education program, students attend four hours per day, four days a week, and bring their children with them.
Three days are devoted to academic instruction, and the fourth to skills. “So for instance, last year all of the adult learners took their Foodsafe,” Hough says. “They took first aid. They also had instruction on parenting skills, like car seats.”
An hour per day is dedicated to concentrated study, and half an hour to parent and child time.
“That gives them time to focus just on their kids because we know when they go home, a lot don’t have time for that one-on-one,” Hough says.
Lunch is also provided — but the learners plan the menus, budget for them, and prepare the food.
The class is capped at a dozen students, but there’s a waiting list with a continuous intake, so if someone decides it’s not for them, their spot is soon filled.
This year, the program secured a license for the children’s program, allowing them to provide more programming for infant toddlers.
Adults can spend more than one year in the program as they pursue their goals.
Tanya Chu, now in her third year, has children ages 9, 7, and 2½. She was able to complete her high school equivalency and is now working on courses to prepare her for college.
“I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but always wanted to get my high school [diploma] as well,” she says. “Being that the daycare is right there and I have full access to my child at any time was the reason I chose this program instead of putting him in daycare and going to college.”
Hough says while the program comes easily to some, others have been out of school so long that re-learning study habits is a challenge.
“They’ve got so many barriers to deal with. If they can get a few units done and close to a credit in one year, we’re quite thrilled.”
Hough is also hopeful the program can be launched in other Columbia Basin communities. At the moment, it’s the only one.