The challenges post-secondary students face as they work toward a desired education are varied and relative. Some hurdles are greater than others, but those who embark on a journey at Selkirk College have the option of seeking financial relief through bursaries that help ease the strain.
When she enroled in the Education Assistant & Community Support Worker Program (EACSW) on the Castlegar Campus, Angela Erickson took out a second mortgage on her home. She put her desire to make a difference in the lives of children before her own financial comfort. But the struggle was not easy.
Just before Christmas, Erickson received a letter from Selkirk College informing her of two successful bursary applications that will provide $2,500 towards her education.
“It sent me over the moon when I received a letter from Selkirk College about the bursary,” says the 34-year-old. “If it wasn’t for these bursaries, I’m not sure what we would have done.”
Raised in Castlegar, Erickson’s experience with public school was extremely difficult. Born with a cleft lip and palate, she was badly bullied to the point that she stopped going to school in Grade 6.
“Even now, when I see a school bus I cringe and my stomach turns,” she says. “We all come from something and my childhood wasn’t all bad. It wasn’t always great and it wasn’t always easy, but it has made me the person I am today. Because of what I have gone through, I always try to put myself in somebody else’s shoes and I don’t want any other child to go through it.”
Included in Erickson’s intimate understanding of overcoming massive obstacles are her two children, Brendan (15) and Torsten (8). When her oldest son was four months old, he sustained a brain injury and she was told by health professionals that the road ahead was going to be rough.
“We were originally told he would never walk, run or talk,” Erickson says. “Now he walks, talks and runs. He has cognitive impairments, but he is here and he’s thriving. He’s a good kid.”
Providing care and support for her children—her youngest also has a cleft lip and palate—is more than a full-time job. Prior to enroling in the EACSW Program, Erickson’s packed schedule also included six years working as a care aide at Mountain Lake Seniors Community in Nelson to ensure the bills were paid.
Looking for a career that fit her desire to help children, Erickson took on even more when she decided to complete her high school diploma. With the required high school diploma in hand and acceptance into Selkirk College assured, Erickson says she was overwhelmed by the task ahead. Nervous about being a mature student and balancing her home life, she was quickly put at ease by her classmates and support from Selkirk College staff like EASCW veteran instructor Jane Green.
“I have never met a woman like Jane in my life,” Erickson says with a smile. “She can make change because she is so positive. She is just an incredible person and there needs to be more people like her in the world. It’s made me realize that as an educational assistant or support worker, you can make a difference in a person’s life every day.”
Green shares the same admiration for her student.
“Angela is tireless and fearless, even in the face of many hurdles,” Green says. “Her passion and commitment to her family and to her studies are an inspiration for her colleagues in the class, and for us all. I think she'll be a powerful force for change in the days ahead.”
Graduates of the EASCW Program work with children and adults living with disabilities, their families, teachers and other support professionals in schools and community care. Once Erickson completes the certificate program, she looks forward to starting a career in a field that requires many of the tools she already possesses.
“What gives me the motivation to keep navigating through the challenges of school is my oldest son, because he has taught me so much,” she says. “What I have gained from Brendan is something much more than any textbook could ever teach me. It hasn’t been an easy road, but I hope in the future I’m able to make the road for somebody else at least a little bit easier to navigate.”
Bursaries are needs-based student financial awards. Selkirk College will provide $117,000 in bursaries this year to help students in all programs reach their desired goals. Erickson and other bursary recipients will join donors at the annual Selkirk College Bursary Tea which takes place on February 3 at Mary Hall on Nelson’s Tenth Street Campus.
Find out more about how you can support Selkirk College bursaries at: selkirk.ca/fundraising