by Heidi Riley
The Workplace Essential Skills (WES) Lennox program, delivered by Workplace Learning PEI, helps people improve their essential skills, such as reading and literacy, and helps them prepare to take their GED and other certification exams.
Training is structured to best meet each participant’s learning needs, and could include classroom, small group, one-on-one, or online delivery.
This past year, three participants of the WES Lennox program earned their GED, including Nora Richard of Summerside.
Nora started her GED journey at Holland College in 2008. “I tried to get my GED many times over the years,” says Nora. “Each time I had to stop and go back to work because I could not afford to be on Employment Insurance and go to school. I failed many times, but I kept trying.
“The first time I wrote the tests, I got one subject correct. I re-wrote it and passed two subjects. I wrote the English test three times. Math was a nightmare. I quit school at 16, so I had to learn algebra and geometry for the first time.”
Nora says she did not have a good experience when she went to public school. “When I was a kid, we moved from PEI to Ontario, and we were really behind. I didn’t get support at home, so I made sure to pay close attention at school. I am a visual learner, and many times I could not see how something was done, so it never got done.
“One teacher got very mad at me because I never got my homework done. He would stand behind my desk and smack me on the back of my head when I made a mistake. It made me nervous and afraid, and I felt stupid and defeated. One time when I didn’t get my homework done, he backhanded me across the face and made my nose bleed.”
Help from instructors at WES Lennox
As an adult, Nora decided to continue her education. “I always wanted to get my GED. When I start anything in my life, I hate to stop trying, and I don’t want to be defeated.”
For the last two years, Nora attended the WES Lennox program while working part-time, basket weaving at home, and facilitating basket weaving courses. Four days a week, Nora made the 35-minute drive from her home in Summerside to the WES Lennox classes in Bideford.
“I’m so glad I went there. It is an awesome program, and the instructors were amazing. There were just nine of us in the class, so we had more one-on-one time. The instructors kept saying not to worry if I couldn’t do something, and not to be ashamed to ask for help. If there was a program like WES Lennox when I was a kid, I probably would not have quit school.
“Everyone in the class works at their own pace. If you are struggling, instructors Cat Ronahan, Joe Byrne, Jillian Bulger, and Jonathan Simmonds will show you a different way to do it. They always went that extra step to make sure we understood everything.”
The importance of earning a GED
“Job listings usually require grade 12, and since I didn’t have that, I skipped those ads, even though I wouldn’t have minded trying the job. It is a real barrier.
“Now that I have my GED, I have more confidence. It is something I always wanted to do, and it didn’t matter how long it took or how many times I had to try.
“If you want to earn your GED, find a good mentor,” says Nora. “It is important to get a lot of one-on-one time. If you can’t get that with an instructor, try to find someone else who can help.
“It is hard, but if you really want something bad enough it doesn’t matter how many times you try and fail, eventually it will work out.”
Growing up, Nora was interested in carpentry, but the math defeated her. Now she is following her dream. With help from the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI, she was hired at Poppy’s Porch, a woodworking craft shop in Margate near Kensington. She started by organizing the shop, and then went on to paint the Adirondack chairs made by owner Roger Gillcash. Then she graduated to cutting out the wood pieces to make the chairs.
“Roger was very patient with me, and I practiced and eventually I got better and didn’t feel scared of the equipment anymore. Now I use every machine in the shop.”
Nora also makes traditional Mi’kmaq baskets and holds workshops to teach the craft. “When I make baskets, it’s just like when I was working towards the GED. When I have trouble with a design or pattern, I will think about it for days, and try again and again.”
For more about Poppies Porch, search on Facebook.
For more about the WES Lennox program and Workplace Learning PEI, visit www.workplacelearningpei.com
For a video about Nora Richard’s educational path, click here
WES Lennox is sponsored by Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI and funded by the Department of Economic Growth, Tourism & Culture through the Canada-PEI Labour Market Agreement.