Sheila wanted to graduate when she was a teenager, but life took her in a different direction. Now, as an adult, she has achieved her goal. Sheila is one of more than 300 students graduating from Vancouver School Board's adult education program this year and, like many of them, she has found it is unlocking new opportunities for her.
Sheila's first experience with high school didn't go very well. "I came from a broken family. As a teenager I was your typical 'I'm going to cause trouble teenager', looking for all the wrong attention." Stressed and over-extended, she dropped out at 16 to support herself; she then got pregnant and had a baby son who she gave up for adoption.
"In the adoption letter I promised to get my education. That was one of the reasons I had to let him go because I was still a child myself. My son just turned 18 and I knew he was graduating this year and I still hadn't got my diploma."
Laid off from a job in Alberta's oil sands and living with her sister in Vancouver, Sheila now had a window of opportunity, and the inspiration, to finally finish high school. "I've been really afraid of going back to school, a fear of failure kind of thing. My lack of education was holding me back from doing all the things I wanted to. "
In January, Sheila discovered VSB's adult education program online and she was in a classroom at Gladstone's Main Street Education Centre two weeks later. With equivalency credits for her work experience, she needed only four courses to get her diploma - English 12, Social Justice, and Grade 10 and 11 Math.
"What I find so shocking is how much I enjoy Math compared to when I was a teenager. I needed someone to take some time with me."
Her classes at Main Street were filled with other like-minded adults; she wasn't afraid to ask questions and didn't feel judged. Now that she has completed high school - scoring A grades in all subjects - Sheila will study bookkeeping with an eye to becoming a qualified Charted Professional Accountant.
"I can do whatever I want, study whatever I want and that's why this diploma is so important to me. It's given me a lot more confidence in myself. I reassured myself that I am capable of being something more, doing something more."