by Ethan Paquet
Each fall, the PEI Literacy Alliance awards bursaries to adult learners working toward their GED. These bursaries help to remove financial barriers for adults working to improve their education and their lives.
In November 2021, the Alliance partnered with Master Packaging, Holland College, SkillsPEI, Canadian Tire, Arsenault Properties, Peter Gzowski Foundation for Literacy, and Upstreet Brewing to raise money for bursaries and scholarships.
One of the winners is Sheryl Sock. As a child, Sheryl was in and out of foster care, and she switched back and forth between schooling on Lennox Island and off-reserve. Without stability in her life, she struggled in school. Finally, she was placed in a permanent foster home. While it kept her at one school, she was still struggling to learn.
“I grew up using my native language, and I could speak English and French, but reading in English was more challenging,” says Sheryl. “When I was asked a question about what I just read in English, I needed more time to think about it. I had to stop using my native language because nobody around me knew how to speak it.”
This challenge persisted throughout her learning, but she was determined to stick with school. However, she was forced to drop out of high school. “I gave birth to a baby boy when I was 17 in grade 11,” she says. “I didn’t have anybody to help take care of my child while I went to school. I thought about daycare, but they would not accept newborns. So, I had to stay home and take care of my baby.”
She eventually had four children, and when they were old enough to start school, Sheryl began an entry-level position at a fish plant and took training through the Marine Emergency Duties program, where she earned her Basic Safety certificate. This qualification helped her retain employment each year, but she wanted more for herself.
“I was pushing my kids hard to keep going and finish high school, but they loved school, so they were pushing themselves. I thought maybe I should start pushing myself, too.”
In 2019, she found out about a 20-week program called Workplace Essential Skills (WES) Lennox Program delivered by Workplace Learning PEI on Lennox Island in partnership with program sponsor Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI (MCPEI).
WES helps people improve their essential skills such as literacy skills and helps them prepare to take their GED and other certification exams. The focus of the program is on the specific tasks associated with an individual’s education goal, current job, or desired occupation.
“I wanted to earn my GED and start a career in bookkeeping or accounting. I wanted to take the program to help me work toward my goals.”
The WES program supported her learning style. She was able to work at her own pace and take the extra time she needed to learn.
Tragedy struck but incredible support got her through
Shortly after the program began, she lost her house in a fire. Then came the sudden death of her step-cousin who she was close with. She left the program temporarily, but the staff reached out to help guide her back on track.
“They helped me to come back into the program and stay focused on the pre-tests for my GED, and they helped me apply for this bursary. I never expected to win, and I still couldn’t really believe that I had won until the night of the ceremony when they gave me the cheque.”
She plans to use her bursary to pay for learning materials and supplies once she begins post-secondary training in accounting or bookkeeping.
While COVID-19 restrictions have caused her to put her plans on hold for now, she is confident that once the WES program returns to in-person classes, she will complete her GED testing.
“Through all the challenges, I have always tried to stay positive. I know I can do it. I just need to stay on top of everything and stay focused on my end goal.”
She hopes anyone in a similar situation can find the strength to overcome any adversities as they navigate towards their goals.
“Just keep trying and know that there are people who are willing to help you and be on your side as you keep moving forward.”
WES Lennox is funded by the Department of Workforce, Advance Learning and Population through the Canada-PEI Labour Market Agreement.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
about the PEI Literacy Alliance Adult Learner Bursaries, visit www.peiliteracy.ca/adult-learner-awards
To learn more about the Workplace Essential Skills program in Charlottetown, Summerside, and Lennox Island, visit www.workplacelearningpei.com
For a complete list of Bursaries, Awards and Scholarships on PEI, visit www.employmentjourney.com/bursaries-awards-scholarships