What am I doing here? That’s the question Terry Yeoman told his fellow College and Career Preparation graduates that he kept asking himself following his return to school after a 40-year absence.
The 59-old-year was one of 29 students to graduate from this year’s College and Career Prep program in Brantford. Terry was also this year’s Valedictorian, an honour he didn’t pursue and one that never crossed his mind when he enrolled in the program a year and a half ago.
“It was all a little intimidating,” said Terry recalling his first few weeks in the program. “Then it occurred to me that we’re all here, because we’re not all there. Every student here has had troubled times. Some need to fill gaps in their education. Some needed to retrain after losing a job. And others are just making up for lost time.”
Whatever the cause they were all there for the same reason: to improve themselves and make their lives better.
That was definitely the case for last year’s Valedictorian Tom Szabo. Tom kicked a 25-year addiction to drugs and alcohol not long before he enrolled in the College and Career Prep program, and though it was a rocky start Tom came out a winner. Since graduating from the program last year he has fast-tracked through Mohawk’s Social Service Worker program and expects to graduate McMaster University’s Addiction Caregiver program next spring.
Tom and Terry are just two of many success stories that have come out of the College and Career Prep program over the years. Mohawk has been offering the tuition-free program in one form or another since the College opened in 1969. Most students are referred to the College by Ontario Works, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and other organizations. The program is offered at Mohawk’s campuses in Brantford and Hamilton, and at a satellite facility in Dunnville. Ten of this year’s graduates came from the Dunnville program.
How long a student stays in the program depends on the student, says program coordinator Jerry Mays. Success is also determined by the student, says Jerry. For some success is being accepted into a post-secondary program. For others success is completing the College and Career Prep program. And for some it’s being able to find work.
This year’s graduating class is one of best they’ve had, says Jerry. Twenty-one of them will be coming back to Mohawk either this fall or for January. The remaining eight chose to continue working or to look for employment.
Terry says he hopes his experience with the program will inspire others to follow the same path. He was referred to Mohawk by the Literacy Council in Brantford and wants to go back to them to share his story and experiences at the college in the hopes that it will encourage others to do the same.
“I’d like to be seen as the example,” he says. “I’m sure there are others like me who will be hesitant at first and who won’t want to come for the same reasons I didn’t.”
“I have a lot more confidence thanks to this program and its instructors.”
Terry says he plans to return to work, but would jump at the opportunity to return to college in the future.