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Let Contact North | Contact Nord be your frontline support
Contact North | Contact Nord is a free, local bilingual service to help residents in 1,500+ rural and remote Ontario communities access online programs and courses from colleges, universities and training providers without having to leave their communities.
For support navigating online study options please contact us:
An unhappy high school experience had made Miranda Chaffey wary of jumping right into post-secondary school.
She didn’t know what she wanted to study at the time, so it was an easy decision to delay. But after years of working at jobs she didn’t love, Miranda knew going back to school was the answer.
Fast forward a decade or so and she’s now the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orillia.
“It wasn’t always a breeze. I definitely had challenges along the way and there were times I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t do this.’ Not having that network close to you that you can go off and study with … those in-person connections are hard to replace. But it’s about setting small goals for yourself, working through things and doing do it for yourself.”
Reflecting on that decision to hold off on higher ed, Miranda is proud of her achievements as an adult learner — and happy she was able to pursue a career she could be passionate about.
The journey began when she reached out to Contact North in 2012.
“I was an adult learner and a first-generation learner,” Miranda says from her home in Gravenhurst. “My parents hadn’t been to post-secondary either so I needed a bit of mentoring to research it, figure out what I needed to do, grants, prerequisites, that sort of thing.”
Miranda knew she wanted to work with kids — perhaps something in the social work field or human services — but wasn’t sure where to start.
“Contact North helped give me the options of what colleges offer,” she explains. “It was an empowering experience. They were there to support my online learning and I knew I could go there and work quietly if I wanted to.”
Ultimately Miranda chose to pursue the two-year Social Service Worker Diploma program at Northern College, and did it completely online because she needed to keep working to support herself.
Online learning worked well for Miranda, although studying alone 100% of the time wasn’t without its challenges.
“Because I was already an adult learner in my mid-20s I didn’t feel like I was in that phase of my life to go to college. I wanted the comfort of my own home. I had a job. I needed that financial security to put myself through college. Even though it was full-time, being online gave me that flexibility of still being able to work.
“It wasn’t always a breeze. I definitely had challenges along the way and there were times I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t do this.’ Not having that network close to you that you can go off and study with … those in-person connections are hard to replace. But it’s about setting small goals for yourself, working through things and doing do it for yourself,” she says.
Now 34, Miranda knows she made the right choice.
“I definitely picked the right career for me,” she says. “It’s fulfilling something that I was missing before.”