I didn’t finish high school but worked for three years until 2016. I was laid off unexpectedly, but decided to look at it positively. I thought, ‘This is my chance. I have to do something.’
I had many barriers, including an anxiety disorder. But then I met with Dale. I felt so comfortable. I had spent so much time on EI. You feel the system is against you. But Dale was just a real person. He wanted to know what I wanted. I started the classes and the flexibility really worked for me. I could pick when and how much I attended.
I loved the small classes and the personalized approach. Everyone was at different stages. I didn’t feel judged. I was listening to peoples’ stories. In other situations, especially in school, I had always felt like an outsider. I’m the new kid – but at the Learning Exchange, everyone was the new kid. There can be a lot of shame. Shame from not completing school. They don’t want you to feel that at the Learning Exchange, though. They want to you get away from that, to move on.
I took my GED and it was tough. But we had worked on a plan. If I didn’t pass, we would know immediately, and we would work together on that.
Once I met Janelle, applying to post-secondary became a conversation. The New Brunswick College of Craft and Design was having some classes at the Saint John campus for a new one-year program. When I applied, I didn’t have my GED, it was a condition. Janelle was totally supportive – we took the leap together. Once the wheels were turning to apply for college, it was my focus. A future was possible, a career was possible. I began to build my confidence. And I got in.
Once I was there, everything was new again. But I had my experience at the Learning Exchange to draw upon. Even just the ability to reach out to my teachers and ask for help. I graduated and was accepted to study Photography at NBCCD in Fredericton. I’ve signed a lease. I’m ready to go. My experience at the Learning Exchange taught me that my dreams were actually tangible. Thinking about the future feels real for the first time.