April 14, 2008
This week, we have a story written by Grace Kirton, from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Grace’s spiritual name is Morningstar. She likes to use this name whenever she shares her story. She started telling her story when she took part in Literacy Partners of Manitoba (LPM)'s Learner Speakers' Bureau. Grace is now enrolled in classes at the Aboriginal Community Campus.
My spiritual name is Morningstar. Whenever I speak at any kind of gathering, I use my spiritual name. It gives you and me a blessing. And a blessing is what I need right now. It is hard for me to share my story of being back in school with such a big group of people.
My life when I was young was too dysfunctional for me to attend school every day. I came from a broken home. My mother tried to look after her five children, but failed. We ended up going from relative to relative and eventually into foster homes. No sooner would we start a new school, than we would be moved again, not really getting a chance to learn anything.
When I was 12½ years old, my mom got us back from the Children’s Aid Society. We moved to the North End of Winnipeg. I was automatically placed in a grade seven class because of my age. I had only been in a grade five class. It was very strange to be in a junior high class. I felt really different from all the other kids. I had nobody to talk to about how different, how out of place, and how dumb I felt. So I quit school in grade seven.
I turned 13 and moved out of my mother’s house. I lived mostly on the street until I turned 18 and received welfare. The chance to go to school again came through the welfare system. They sent me to the Winnipeg Adult Education Centre, and I made it to grade nine in a few months. But, because of a big family crisis, I quit school for the second time. I felt too overwhelmed, and I couldn’t concentrate on my education at that time. I thought that I was not made to be an educated person, so I went back on the streets, feeling hopeless and lost.
I was 21 years old when I met a decent man who took me in. He saved my life. I had three children with that man. I have never been lucky in relationships and soon our family broke up. I lived alone with my children, and also have had three more since then. I have Dara 20, Warner 19, Rayna 18, Roberta 15, Kashtin 14, and Wesley 13.
I didn’t get another chance to go back to school until 2004, twenty-one years later, when I attended a life skills course in Chilliwack, B.C. That’s where I decided I really wanted to get my education, so I could be a better and smarter person. I wanted to make my children’s and my life easier. I wanted to encourage them to take their education seriously, so they would be able to get decent jobs and live happy, successful lives. I have the opportunity right now, at the Aboriginal Community Campus, to get my grade twelve and to take a Native Studies course that I have dreamed of taking for a long time.
On my first day at the centre, I felt like a little child just starting kindergarten. I was so scared. I thought I was too old to be going back to school, but my teacher, Linda Smith, welcomed us and congratulated us for our strength in being there. She told us that she had returned to school nine years ago when she was my age. That made me feel more at ease and comfortable in her class. Linda cares about all of her students and goes out of her way to help us.
Every morning is a struggle to get to school. It is frustrating for me to see my children not wanting to go to school, but I keep going every day, hoping to be a good example for them. I am not going to quit this time! This is my last chance to finish high school. I need my grade twelve diploma to fulfill my dream of becoming a facilitator, helping people heal from the type of things I have experienced. I would like to be like my best teacher, Howard Vincent, who taught me that knowledge is the second most powerful force in the world, love being number one.
A year after I wrote this speech I had to quit school again because of overwhelming personal problems. I had gone as far as Grade 11.
I’ve got myself back together and I looked for another way to reach my goal of helping people heal. I have been accepted into the CDI Career College. Thanks to my teachers at the Aboriginal Centre I was able to pass the entrance exam with 86%. I am now looking for sponsorship so I can start my Addictions Community Service Worker Course in June.
My message is to encourage other women who have similar backgrounds as mine, to try going back to school. It is a better place to be. My life and my children’s lives have changed in many positive ways. My oldest daughter graduated from the Winnipeg Adult Education Centre in the spring. She was the valedictorian. I am glad that I took the first step towards learning and hope that I will be able to continue.
Thank you for listening.
[This story was taken with permission, from the Literacy Partners of Manitoba (LPM) website, where it had appeared as a Featured Weekly Learner Writer.]