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Going back to school as an adult can intimidate even the most confident of learners. But for those who learned English as a second language, hitting the books later in life can be downright terrifying.
Yvonne Duffy-Crosby, who came to Canada from Germany and raised five children before embarking on a new career, knows exactly what it feels like to confront her fears head-on.
Like many immigrants, Yvonne had earned qualifications overseas but needed to start over again in this country.
She prepared for her GED and did academic upgrading for English, then decided that as a single mom of five she needed a better way to provide for her family.
The learning journey that began in her 40s wasn’t always easy, and it took a few years working with Contact North’s Englehart online learning centre to figure out what she wanted to do. She nearly gave up on a couple of occasions, but persevered.
“You need encouragement along the way. Contact North gave me huge support and was always flexible on finding courses and following through. Even after the fact, they never leave you hanging, they always check on you.”
Asked about her strongest characteristic, Yvonne says: “Perseverance is a good word. Most of my friends would say ‘compassionate’ and ‘teachable.’ I’m always interested to learn more. I think each day is an opportunity, and that’s what I’m striving for.
“English is my second language. Even as a kid, I had my struggles. I had to figure this out — what it’s like to be a student and focus on learning. It took until now to get it done.”
Once the pandemic hit, the choice became clear for Yvonne, now 51. She had been feeling so badly for elderly people who were trapped in their homes without friends or family that she decided to become a personal support worker.
With Contact North’s support, she found that the PSW course from Canadore College was the right fit.
“You’ve got to start from the beginning,” Yvonne says. “It was time consuming but in general I was very, very focused to finish this course. I was glad to be online because it was flexible. I was a very persistent student to always be at class. I liked that I was able to be there for my family.”
Now working as a PSW in both the private sector and at her local hospital in Englehart, Ontario, Yvonne is grateful for the support she received from Contact North.
“You need encouragement along the way,” she says. “Contact North gave me huge support and was always flexible on finding courses and following through. Even after the fact, they never leave you hanging, they always check on you.”
As for other would-be adult learners who might be hesitant to go back to school, Yvonne hopes her story will help them overcome their fear.
“Get involved and don’t give up,” she says. “You can’t lose anything — you can only gain.”