Thursday, June 20, 2013

Graduation (for a local 89 year old and, for my mom)

"On Wednesday, Ms. Eddison will become one of B.C.’s oldest high school graduates. The 89-year-old great-grandmother will receive her adult high school diploma from the Agassiz Centre for Education in Agassiz, B.C., east of Vancouver."

This story caught my eye for a number of reasons.  Firstly, I love that this woman is the epitome of  someone who really is 'a life long learner', a term you hear so much about in today's educational world.  Secondly, this story is happening in the small community where I lived for 32 years and where I taught for 25.  Thirdly, the administrator at ACE (Agassiz Continuing Education) , Sandy Balascak, represents a modern educator who thinks outside the box.  Her idea of combining high school students who sometimes struggle in the regular school system with seniors is pure genius.  I love that she had the idea.  I love that she thought it would work and then went about making it work. I love that her main goal was finding a way to integrate the seniors in the community with the students who attend her alternate school.  Those community connections, I believe, are so important to students who have struggled with the school system, with their home lives and with acceptance, in general.   I love that it is on the evening news and in the National Post.  Fourthly, and most importantly, it reminds me of another woman who took a risk, quit her job and went back to public school to complete her grade 12.  That woman is my mom.

I am not sure what motivated my mom to leave the work force in 1971 and return to public school to complete grades 11 and 12.  In hindsight, I believe it was about finding a better job more than it was about completing her education, but I will have to ask her the answer to that question to really know.  What I do know is that my mom, my brother and I carpooled to school several days a week.  On top of that my grandmother, a teacher, also attended my high school to upgrade in French.  I don't remember being too bothered by this.  Our high school was big, really big!  My mom took business classes, which were in another wing of the school where I seldom hung out, except for typing class (which I never attended anyways, but that's another story).

Sadly, I never recognized the courage that this took until I was going back to school myself.   Like my mom, I had a four children before I headed back to school.  My mom would have been 37, I was 26.   I went to university, she went to public school.  I went with friends, she went with her two teenagers and her mother.  She left a paying job.  My dad was in the Armed Forces and while he made a living wage, I am sure that there was no extra money around as there never had been, even while she was working.  I don't remember her complaining.  I don't remember her doing homework.  I do remember her excelling.

I was pretty wrapped up in my own world when I was going to high school; friends, sports, oh yeah, and school.  I will tell my mom when I see her in a couple of weeks how amazing I think she was/is.  There is so much in life you just don't get until you've walked a mile in your parents' shoes. 

It was great to attend the ACE graduation yesterday for a number of reasons.  But mostly, it brought a new awareness to me about my own family, about the support we had at home and about the example my mother had set about the importance of education, no matter  your age.

Thanks mom!

Me, my mom, my Gramma Dot (who also attended high school with me) and Jason and Christine
1977, Comox, B.C.


  1. What a great story|! I really admire these women.

    1. Fran, I think I was more proud of Austin Belanger finally making that walk across the stage than I was of these women, although I do admire them as well. He was so proud and his whole family was there, just as they have always been.