Changing Lives Through Education

Kerri Gwilt upgrades her courses at VIU in order to pursue her long-term goal of becoming a nurse.

Kerri Gwilt upgrades her courses at VIU in order to pursue her long-term goal of becoming a nurse.

July 9, 2019 - 3:00pm

Vancouver Island University’s Adult Basic Education program is supporting students to pursue their dreams. 

“Everyone who is here has struggled at some point and this is our second chance to build a better life,” says Julianne McCullough, Adult Basic Education (ABE) student at Vancouver Island University (VIU). 

VIU student Julianne McCullough carves out a new journey for her family through education

McCullough is one of many students at VIU’s Cowichan Campus who are rewriting their stories through education. VIU Cowichan had 27 ABE students graduate this June and distributed $10,000 worth of awards to those wishing to continue with their education. 

“VIU’s ABE program is a pivotal step in our students’ lives to actualize their potential and discover their resilience,” says Instructor Summer Crosson. 

ABE offers high-school equivalent courses for students looking to get pre-requisites for university programs, improve their grades for admission to post-secondary or simply to complete a high-school diploma. 

McCullough’s separation from her spouse led the then stay-at-home mother of four to return to the classroom to seek meaningful employment to support her family. 

“I haven’t held a full-time job or been to school in the last 10 years, so it was certainly intimidating stepping back into the classroom,” she says. “When I was in high school I was the kid who half-assed everything, but when you have a family you can’t half-ass your life.”

McCullough gave everything she had when she entered the ABE program. She received straight A’s in her classes and was recently awarded a $1,000 award for her excellent academic accomplishments. She plans to apply to the nursing program at VIU after she finishes upgrading her courses. 

“I feel really proud of myself for committing to school and setting a good example for my children,” she says. “Being in this program has also given me confidence in my abilities to help them if they need help in school whereas before I wasn’t able to.” 

McCullough says her teachers’ enthusiasm for their subjects inspires her to learn and carry forward that information to her own children. 

“My instructor Dan Vaillancourt is so passionate about teaching English that his positive attitude tricks you into believing that learning grammar and punctuation is easy, and then you start believing that you can actually do this,” says McCullough. 

Kerri Gwilt, an Indigenous student, enrolled in the Aboriginal University Bridging Program (AUBP) to get the pre-requisites for the nursing program at VIU. The AUBP supports Indigenous students to bridge the gap between post-secondary education and their educational aspirations. 

Since she can remember, Gwilt has always wanted to be a nurse, but the timing didn’t work out until now. 

As a young mother of two children, she says balancing school and family life was initially a challenge. 

“You get used to the routine though,” says Gwilt. “After a long day of school and taking care of my kids, I would be too tired to study at night. I found the best time for me to concentrate was in the mornings before everyone got up.” 

She was recently accepted into the highly competitive VIU Bachelor of Science in Nursing program and will start classes at the Nanaimo campus this September. 

“I have been taking pre-requisite courses since last January,” says Gwilt. “I haven’t done any school since I graduated in 2006, so re-introducing myself to the classroom through the Aboriginal university bridging program has set me up with a strong foundation for the nursing program.” 

McCullough, who has been upgrading her courses since last year, says the time invested is worth the gain. 

“I started off with Grade 9 math and now I am almost graduated – that is no time at all and look at what I’ve accomplished. For those who are wondering if they should return to school, I say, ‘Why not?’ You have so much to gain.” 



Rae-Anne Guenther, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250-741-6673 l C: 250-619-1088 l E: | T: @VIUNews

Tags: Adult Basic Education | Student Success

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