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Stephanie Reddoch says she’s lucky to have had the opportunity to learn in an online community she describes as respectful and welcoming of diversity.
“Be open to learning new skills. If I can do it, so can you.”
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A creative thinker who loves to learn and take on new challenges, Stephanie Reddoch says the toughest part of prepping for a new career was being denied access to the same free online opportunities that other Ontarians had.
Stephanie wanted fulfilling work with flexible hours, and she needed to arm herself with the knowledge and skills to get that work without having to leave her rural home near Cornwall.
“I considered writing and found many free courses offered through a Toronto library,” she says. “However, when I went through the process of applying for a library card to access the courses, I was denied because I didn’t have a Toronto address.”
Opportunities began to open up when a consultant put Stephanie in touch with Barb Matthews, an online learning recruitment officer at Contact North’s Cornwall online learning centre.
“My initial impression was ‘Wow! This is great!’ she says. “At first I took a beginner’s course on creative writing, which I loved. Then I branched out with different courses learning different genres: magazine writing, fantasy, mystery, YA, children’s books.
“The more I learned, the more I realized I had so much more to learn. I learned about the importance of publication credits, which cue editors and publishers of your writing skills. I took courses in copyediting and blogging. I took 12 courses in total, all of them giving me the knowledge and skills needed to navigate in the writer’s world.”
“I had no idea what skills and knowledge I needed to be a writer. Contact North allowed me to learn in a safe, caring environment where staff provided the scaffolding to grow and develop in my new career endeavour.”
Today, with Stephanie’s decision to pursue a writing career already yielding results, she credits Contact North staff for their enthusiastic encouragement and support.
“I’ve been on this learning journey now for over a year and I have been able to get two essays in creative nonfiction published,” she says. “These publication credits are important for my journey as a writer — and they would not have been possible without the support I received at Contact North.
“They would reach out to me regularly to see how my courses were going and if I needed anything else. I felt like they were invested in my learning and growth. When I mentioned that I was looking for information about social media and poetry, for example, they would respond quickly with courses that I might be interested in. They were professional and genuinely caring. I hope one day I get to thank them in person — they feel like friends.
“You’ve heard the saying, ‘You don’t know what you don’t know.’ This applies to me. I had no idea what skills and knowledge I needed to be a writer. Contact North allowed me to learn in a safe, caring environment where staff provided the scaffolding to grow and develop in my new career endeavour. I can now say, ‘I’m a writer!’
“I feel lucky to have had this opportunity. Online learning eliminates any geographical barriers. I love the flexibility, and the learning community is very respectful. Diversity is welcomed and embraced.”
Stephanie hopes her experience will inspire other would-be learners to jump right in and welcome the opportunities that are available through Contact North.
“You will have lots of support,” she says. “Be open to learning new skills. If I can do it, so can you.”