Crystal’s story: “I hope that others will follow”

Crystal’s story is an important one in this series on transformative learning and adult literacy. Hers is the only one in the series involving home schooling. And, as she explains, her story develops out of a strongly religious upbringing. Nevertheless, here again is a story that shows us how literacy and basic education counselors and instructors can change lives and create new beginnings through transformative learning.

Thank you Karla Halcro for working with Crystal on this story and thank you Crystal… Every success in your future endeavours.

Dr. Allan Quigley and the SARN Team

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Crystal’s story: “I hope that others will follow”

I was the oldest of four brothers and three sisters. I grew up on a farm in the Mennonite culture and I was home-schooled. My mother was always busy with the younger children, so she pretty much just taught me how to read and write. I was pretty much left on my own after that. At 15, I moved away from the farm and started working part time at a butcher shop.  I finished grade eight and started working full-time by the age of sixteen. In my Mennonite culture, very few people ever get their grade twelve; they mostly only go to grade ten. Women especially didn’t get their education as most were married at 18 or even younger.

I got married at 17 and quit work once I was four months pregnant. My marriage didn’t work out so now I was on my own with my son. I was shunned from my family since I chose to leave.

I worked some jobs—general labourer on a dairy farm, as a support worker for Foster Families–but I soon realized I needed an education or I would be stuck in a cycle of working a job with extra hours every day or trying to balance two jobs.

I realized I needed an education”

I can remember the day I realized this. I was about 22 and it made me decide to take some steps. So I started to do research.  I made calls to different institutes and went online.  I found out that I had to do the CTBS placement test. I found out when the next available one was to be held and attended it and completed it. I scored high enough that they placed me into grade twelve. I was happy and surprised because I had not realized that my academic skills were so high.

I met with a counsellor and chose my classes. I was wait-listed for over a year to get into Adult Basic Education and I finally got in during the 2013-2014 year. I applied for PTA [provincial training allowance] and was approved and attended the full school year (four quads).

I lived just over 80 kms from the Prince Albert Polytechnic campus so my son could stay in the same school and I commuted in every day. I also had a part-time job in my hometown so I was pretty busy. However, my mother had a manic episode halfway through, and as always, she solely trusted me. I was completely burned out balancing everything. Not even two months after I got my mother’s medication balanced, my friend passed away in a tragic quad accident. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

“I was not ‘stupid’”

Panic attacks started to come. They got so bad I thought I was dying. I was ready to quit Basic Education. However, Karla, a counselor at Polytechnic, helped me and sent me to a professional counsellor who greatly helped me.

Looking back, schoolwork for the most part wasn’t too difficult except for math. Seeing as I had skipped grades 9,10, and 11, I had missed some basics but it soon came to light that there was more to these issues. I was sent to be assessed by a psychologist and found that my brain doesn’t quite know how to deal with numbers.  So, now I knew that it was a dysfunction in my brain, and that I was not “stupid.”   She gave me a variety of tools to work with and I passed math by only two percent in 2014.

My original plan was to go into nursing but as my math levels were so low, I decided to look at alternatives. I met with Laura, a career counsellor at the Polytechnic, and we researched a variety of jobs I was interested in and matched those with aptitude tests she had me do. I decided to go for Corrections. I applied and then got in.

“I am now a different person.” Some advice for others

Writing this in March, 2016, I can say I’m currently enjoying my studies and I know that I will have a career once I am done, which I will get more pay at and can live with only one income for the first time in my life. My son won’t be wearing my brother’s hand-me-downs anymore and I will have my own place without having two jobs.

I strongly believe anyone can do anything they set their mind to if they are willing to put in the work and are willing to look for the correct help. I was the first female to have graduated in the church I grew up in and, since then, two other girls have completed their grade twelve.   I know that my success helped to inspire these girls.  I hope that others will follow in our steps!

Looking back now on the challenges I have faced, I can say I am now a different person. I have transformed from a passive person to a more confident one.  And, if I had to give some advice to those who might be starting where I started, I would say that you need to check out every aspect of your dream.  If you don’t think you will like what you are planning to do, don’t waste your time doing it.

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