It’s always a special night for students and educators when the Cowichan Adult Learning Centre holds its annual graduation night at the Quw’utsun Conference Centre.
The positive vibes bubble to the surface because in some cases, the students are the first ever in their families to graduate, while in other cases, older students have returned after years away from school to finally get that diploma.
This year, everyone gathered for the happy celebration on Tuesday, June 23.
The Citizen talked to a trio of women who’ve found their way back to education years after originally leaving school.
Lisa Williams is 43 and has had to re-arrange her working life after an injury.
"I came out here many years ago from Winnipeg and landed in Victoria. About 11 years ago, we moved to Duncan. Then I had an injury and I couldn’t work anymore. Because of that, my doctor ordered me to get back to school and do whatever I had to do so I was not doing physical work any more.
"That meant I had to go back and face my toughest barrier," she said.
Math. "I’m dyslexic and I wasn’t ever taught how to do math properly. I was in a lot of special classes but they didn’t really challenge me to understand more than plus numbers.
"I guess I got my experience out in the world, though. I adopted ways to cover it so people would never know, but I knew at some point I would have to come back."
She dove into more than simple math at Adult Ed.
"I took Accounting 11. That was the first time I’ve ever passed a math class. It drove me crazy, absolutely nuts, but I did it," she said.
All Wiliams needed for graduation was math, but she also did Community Services and Art 12 while she was at it.
"I love art," she said. Planning to continue her studies with some outside funding support came apart at the seams when the agency found that cutbacks had reduced its available money but Williams has found new avenues.
She’s not planning on going into accounting, though.
"I’m more interested in social work, particularly with women who are starting all over again," she said.
Miya Inkster, 40, moved back to the Cowichan Valley this year from Edmonton.
How did she end up at Adult Ed? She knew about it before she even returned.
"I came back Feb. 1 and on Feb. 2 I was enrolled and in full-time classes. It’s funny, I hadn’t planned it all but the chance came up to go back to school and the staff there were ready for me, so I went back," she said.
The instructors are able to deal with real life adult situations.
"They were able to balance their schedule around me. It was amazing.
"I took English 12, Family Planning 12, Psychology 12, Biology 12 and Foundations of Math 11."
Biology 12 and English 12 are heavy-duty academic courses, and she’s now looking to follow an academic path.
"I’m entering psychiatric nursing in November," she said.
She knew she needed those courses when she went back to the classroom.
"I did do those courses specifically because I knew of them but school was also just so great that I was able to pick up a couple of electives and get my graduation. It hadn’t been my first intention but it came with good guidance," she said.
People sometimes forget that Adult Ed can get them headed where they really want to go.
"These courses are university prerequisites. And you can work at your own pace. They’re just so flexible. The teachers are amazing. I haven’t been in school in 25 years and to be able to jump into Grade 12 courses with the guidance of the teachers has been phenomenal."
She did it in just four months. Her family is excited for her.
"They’re really supporting me in my adventure," Inkster said.
Cathi Dickenson, also 43, was encouraged by her daughter-inlaw, who was also attending adult education.
Dickenson took Grade 12 English, Planning 12, and Math and Communications 11.
Getting back into the swing was tough.
"It was hard," she said. But the thing about adult education is that the instructors are there to help with those kinds of problems.
"They were really helpful. They even sent me to Literacy Now to get tutoring help with my courses," she said.
Dickenson said that it took her a year to complete her courses but she’s glad she did it.
Now that she has that diploma in hand, she’s got plans for the future.
"I want to go into social work or early childhood education," she said.