Linda Y.: A Success Story

August 31, 1998 - 5:00pm

Despite a traumatic childhood which included alcoholic parents and surviving alone, at the age of 14, in the big city, a local woman has turned her life around and fulfilled a lifelong dream of becoming a teacher.

Today, Linda Y. bursts with excitement over her recently framed Bachelor of Education degree from Malaspina University-College.

Linda Y., 39, graduated from Malaspina University-College in June and her accomplishment is still sinking in.

"I started dreaming about being a teacher when I was eight or nine," says Y. "But due to my situation of family abuse, I focused on survival."

At 13, Y. got a waitressing job to earn money for a one-way airline ticket to Vancouver. It was her only escape from a dysfunctional home in Sudbury.

For the next 15 years, she grew up in the big city often meeting "the wrong people and getting involved in the wrong things" which eroded all her self esteem.

Eventually she moved to Vancouver Island and worked at various low-paying jobs. Times were tough and she found herself often depressed and confused. Three packs of cigarettes and lots of coffee kept her going.

Y. remember May 15, 1989 distinctly.

"At that moment I wasn't happy and I knew I was dying," she recalls. "I decided I had to quit smoking because I knew if I could do that I could do anything."

After two smoke-free weeks the clouds literally had cleared. "That's when I realized I needed professional help to move foward in my life."

Y. began weekly therapy sessions, and during that time, she heard about Malaspina University-College's job search program for people on social assistance. The program taught students how to write a resume and conduct employment interviews. So she took her next step and registered at Malaspina's Cowichan Campus.

"It was my first time back in school since I had been 13 years old," says Y. "I felt really excited. School had always been a safe place for me."

During the program, Y. casually mentioned that she had always wanted to obtain her grade 12 certificate, and she went for academic testing.

"I was scared and nervous and had no self-esteem," says Y. "Yet the whole thing rekindled the excitement about my dream of becoming a teacher."

Y. completed the prerequisites she needed to enrol in first year university. Because she's hard of hearing, Y. qualified for financial support from the Vocational Rehabilitation Services department of the Ministry of Advanced Education Training and Technology.

"I felt like I had won the lottery when they called to say they'd support me," says Y. "Without their support it would have been very, very difficult to complete my degree."

Since earning her degree, Y. has been asked to tell her story to various student groups, including Malaspina's Award Ceremony at the Cowichan campus in June.

"I told them I felt like the luckiest person in the world to have resumed my education at the Cowichan Campus," says Y."Because of the kindness, friendliness and support of all the staff, instructors and students, they were like the family that I never had."

After four years at Malaspina's Cowichan Campus Y. went on to complete her Education Degree at Malaspina's Nanaimo campus. While completing her fifth and final year of the Education degree program, Y. worked as a teacher on call for the Cowichan School District.

Y. feels like she has come full circle. She started her education at the Cowichan Campus in Adult Basic Education and last October she was standing in front of a new class of ABE students as a teacher.

"This excites me to no end," she says. "Teaching is my passion."

In September, she will continue working in Cowichan, and will substitute in the Sooke School District with a focus on working with teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing.

As for the future, Y. plans to enrol at the University of British Columbia and obtain a Master's Degree, specializing in teaching children who are deaf and hard of hearing.

"Life has changed so much for me, both personally and professionally," says Y. who recently re-established connections with her deaf brother in Oshawa who, coincidentally is a teaching assistant working with deaf students.Speaking from the heart Y. says, "believe in yourself and follow your dream - if I can do it anyone can."

Tags: In the Community

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