Even though she is still so young, 19 year-old Kaleigh Dufresne has overcome many obstacles with the help of the Pinnacle Program and the Future Hair Training Centre, in order to become the successful person that she is today.
"Before the program, I didn't have any dreams or any goals," she said, "I was an addict and an alcoholic."
It was when she came to the Pinnacle Program that her life took a turn for the better. "I think I was 17 when I first started at Pinnacle," she stated, "I was on probation at the time and my probation officer referred me to the program."
The Pinnacle Program is a senior alternative education program for students aged 16 to 19, who come from challenging and diverse backgrounds and are looking to complete their high school education.
The students are referred by a probation officer or a social worker. They receive individual attention from staff to focus on their emotional, financial, career, educational and social needs in order to earn a Dogwood diploma.
Dufresne said with the help of teacher Susan Downing and youth and family worker Kim Brand, she was able to get her life back on track.
"They took me in as family," she said, "They care about you there, and they do everything in their power to make sure you have a good life."
Now Dufresne is on the verge of completing the hairdressing program at Future Hair Training Centre and already has plans for when she graduates. "I actually have a job lined up already," she explained, and feels she is in this position now because of the relationship between the two programs. "The Pinnacle Program has really good ties with the program here."
These ties were created between Susan Downing of Pinnacle and Cynthia Skabar, owner of the Future Hair Training Centre. The two women met through the Cinderella Project, a Vancouver based charity that provides less fortunate graduating students with clothing, haircuts and makeup for their graduation and prom ceremonies. "When I met Susan at the Cinderella Project, she was telling me about the girls she worked with," explained Skabar.
Skabar said that she didn't see why she couldn't be of help to the students.
"They came from backgrounds that don't really let them get where they want to be in life," she said. "If you see someone that would flourish in an environment that I have, then why wouldn't I bring them here?"
After being introduced to the Pinnacle Program, Skabar began offering scholarships to Downing's students in an attempt to give them a chance at success.
"Cynthia provided the first $10,000 scholarship through the Future Hair Centre," explained Downing. "And from then on, anyone that I've ever asked her to take and give them scholarships, she takes."
Carly Shorter, 21, was one of the first Pinnacle students to receive a scholarship and graduate from the hairdressing school. She now currently works at the Future Hair Training Centre.
"What I do is help the students," she said. "Part of my job is watching over them and making sure everything is running smoothly."
And like Dufresne, Shorter had a troubled past as well. "Grade nine was a really bad year for me; I dropped out of school," she said. "I wasn't very focused on school and I didn't really have any goals."
"Afterwards, I went to East Side Alternative school, got caught up and made it through grade 10," she explained.
It was then when she found her way to Pinnacle and her life really turned around.
"The Pinnacle Program pushed me to want to finish high school and it brought me here," she said looking around the office of the hair salon. "It made me want to succeed."
Looking back at her experiences as a student at Pinnacle and the Future Hair Centre, she believes that she is extremely fortunate for the continued support of both programs.
"Both of these places changed my life," she said. "They want to push you to go places; they want you to have a good life."