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April 3, 2006

Photo of Susan

The following story was written by Susan Weldon, from Sydney, Nova Scotia. Susan has lived in Nova Scotia for the past 19 years. Last year she won the Mica Award (Meaningful Involvement Consumer Award) for advocacy and work related to persons with mental illnesses. At present she is upgrading her education at the Adult Learning Association of Cape Breton County. With optimism she embraces each new opportunity and challenge. Susan lives in the moment and looks forward to the future.

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Susan’s Story

by Susan Weldon

I enrolled in the Adult Learning Association of Cape Breton County with only a grade eight education, and a poor one at that. At first I was a little trepid, wondering if I could sit in a classroom of thirty students, or if I was smart enough to do the curriculum. But the class is a comfortable size of ten students and our teacher makes learning interesting, stimulating and fun. The work is a challenge but not one beyond my ability.

My Grandfather on my father's side could not read or write. He signed his name with an X. My Grandmother used to read the newspaper every evening to him so he could know what was going on around him and in the world.

My father encouraged all his children to finish their schooling, and now I find myself back in school after being away for thirty-five years.

An education is very important when pertaining to one's health. I take nine different pills throughout the day just to stay healthy. But if I could not read, what confusion, frustration, and embarrassment this would be, not to mention dangerous.

I was diagnosed with a chemical imbalance and am on a disability cheque, but I want more than this. I don't want to merely exist, stretching my pennies as far as they'll go. I want to earn a comfortable wage that affords me a comfortable lifestyle and a few luxuries.

A better education means a better job, more money, a better quality of life. It raises your esteem as well as your social standing.

Health wise, thank goodness, I have a sister who is a nurse, who helped me with my medications as my mother did before her, sometimes working as a liaison between the doctors and me. I also need my sister with me when shopping to do the financial figuring so I can stay within my budget. For before school math did not come easy to me.

I found through lack of education I could not help my son with his homework. My mother did. I felt reduced in his eyes. Respect was not the same, which gravely affected my emotional feelings and well being. It was more like my parents were raising my son while I stood on the outskirts watching. My son would turn to my mother or father for anything he wanted to know. Conversation between us became stilted. I guess I lucked out for lack of knowledge not love. I feel if I'd had a job, had the money, and a life of my own I would have stayed in good health.

Money is a source of power. It buys one independence of a kind. So with that I'm back in school and enjoying it. I should have taken this step long ago. Now I have a life, and a healthier lifestyle with a brighter future to look forward to, thanks to such programs as this. And it doesn't end here; I hope to take courses in university for a career of my choice after I graduate from Marconi College, where I'll be going come this September. So are my goals for now anyway.

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