Adult learners find it’s never too late to pursue a high school diploma

Denise Titian, November 16, 2017

Eric (far right) and Fanny Mack, who are 63 and 62 respectively, work on completing their Grade 12 education at the Eighth Avenue Learning Centre in Port Alberni. Also pictured in the adult learning program are Alexis and Beverly Lucas (far left).

Port Alberni — 

The Nuu-chah-nulth Employment and Training Program is offering up another round of education upgrading for adults.

Ellie Sampson is a case manager at NETP. She oversees the Adult Learning and Upgrading Program. In its third year of adult upgrading NETP has partnered with the Eighth Avenue Learning Centre and SD70, who provide a teacher to work with the adult learners once a week.

Erik Deutsch teaches special education and math at Eighth Avenue Learning Centre in Port Alberni. Every Thursday morning he goes to the NETP offices to work with the adult learners. This is his second year to teach the program.

Sampson says there are 14 registered for the class but about ten learners show up consistently to do the self-paced work.

The goal is to help adults achieve a Grade 12 education in a way that works for them. The time it takes to earn an Adult Dogwood Diploma (12th grade graduation) depends on the learner; each one comes with a different starting point and needs.

In 2016, the three successful adult graduates started in January and worked consistently to meet the course requirements by the end of June. “It was a bit close but they all finished because they all attended every week,” said Sampson.

There are five required courses one must complete in order to earn an Adult Dogwood Diploma. Mandatory classes include a language arts class like English or Communications 12 and they must also complete Math 11. They may select three Grade 12 electives if necessary. However, some adults may have previous work training or life experiences that may go towards the credits needed to graduate. A meeting with Deutsch during intake will help determine the amount of work an adult leaner needs to do to earn a diploma.

“Each registered student works at their own pace with NETP providing support, space, materials and any necessary equipment like computers,” said Sampson. Some learners prefer working on lessons by computer while others would rather have the pages printed up so they can handwrite their answers.

Last year school year three NETP Adult Learning students successfully completed their programs and walked the stage with other graduates in June. The program normally runs from October to June but learners may sign up at any time.

Toquaht elders Eric and Fanny Mack were inspired to take upgrading after their son completed the program in 2016.

“I wanted to do this for years when I was living in Ukee (Ucluelet),” said Eric, 63. Haunted by the ghosts of residential school, Eric said he wasn’t getting anywhere.

“Now I have more time and I want this and now I have the chance,” Mack said. He enjoys the reading that is required but says that he finds writing a challenge. “But it will get better in time,” said Mack.

“I love doing the work and I really encourage the young ones who are not in school to get an education so they can get good jobs,” said Fanny Mack, age 62.

Their son completed the courses in 2016 and has come back to work on a course he needs in order to enter training to become a conservation officer. “He always encourages us,” said Eric.