by Ethan Paquet
Each fall, the PEI Literacy Alliance awards bursaries and scholarships to help remove financial barriers for adults working to improve their education and their lives.
In November 2023, the Alliance partnered with Master Packaging, Holland College, Tops to Floors, Murphy’s Pharmacies, Canadian Tire, and Upstreet Craft Brewing to raise money for bursaries and scholarships and to support their programs.
“Our mission is to make it easier for Islanders to access literacy services,” says Jinny Greaves, Executive Director. “Through the continued support of our sponsors, we can provide direct services to over 4,000 children, adults and families on PEI each year.”
Scholarship winner tells his story
Matt Perry was the recipient of the 2023 Master Packaging Scholarship Award. “Matt has shown great determination and dedication at every turn in his learning journey,” says Jinny. “He has worked hard to get to where he is today and is incredibly deserving of this scholarship.”
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the PEI Literacy Alliance and the Essential Employability Skills Health Sector program,” Matt says.
He dropped out of high school at the age of 15 due to academic struggles. He planned to return the next semester for a fresh start, but instead entered the workforce, a decision he came to regret, he says. “As my children grew, it became my priority to finish school. I wanted to encourage them and show them how important education is, and that it is never too late to correct your mistakes or regrets.”
In 2010, at the age of 29, he completed his GED and upgraded his academic credits at Holland College, where he was later accepted into a full-time post-secondary program. However, an illness forced him to return to the workforce and put his education goals on hold.
By 2019, he found himself without work and trying to decide on his next steps. He enrolled part-time in Open Academic Studies at Holland College. Soon after, he saw an advertisement for the Alliance’s Essential Employability Skills (EES) Health Sector training program and knew he had to apply.
“I always envisioned myself working in healthcare, but with no experience or education in the field, I wasn’t sure how to get started. I was pleased to be selected.”
Finding his career calling
Matt says the engaging classroom component of the course and the caring staff helped keep him focused on moving toward a health career. “Taking this program helped solidify my decision to continue my education, enroll in a Resident Care Worker program, and pursue a healthcare career.”
He graduated from Marguerite Connolly Training & Consulting in the spring of 2022 and soon found a permanent position with Health PEI as a Resident/Patient Care Worker. But what might have been his career destination was only a pit stop, he says.
A lifelong journey
“After spending the last year in that job, I realized that there was still room for me to grow. I still work with them, but I have also enrolled in UPEI’s Bachelor of Integrated Studies program, with a concentration on Psychology. This will help further my career in the field of mental health and addictions.”
The choice to keep going came from the advice he continuously heard from the Alliance, which was that anything is possible. “Facilitators Phil Davison and Lily Reaman really inspired me, both during and after the program. They still keep in touch and offer guidance to help me keep moving forward.”
Many people have helped him along the way, but the most important have been his family. “My two daughters are in university now. I have a son graduating high school and another graduating junior high this year. I hope they can find inspiration in me, and we work together to keep each other coming out on top.”
For the past two years, Matt has been a guest speaker for the EES program, sharing his journey with participants. He also likes to use his story to help inspire people to return to school, he says.
“It is so much harder to find the motivation to return to school as you enter your 20s, 30s, and 40s. If you are struggling in school or have already dropped out, talk to someone to find out about the programs that can help get you on the right path to find your next steps.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
about the PEI Literacy Alliance Adult Learner Bursaries, visit www.peiliteracy.ca/adult-learner-awards
To learn more about the Essential Employability Skills program, visit www.peiliteracy.ca/ees
A complete list of bursaries, awards and scholarships offered on PEI can be found at www.employmentjourney.com/bursaries-awards-scholarships