Kitchener 519-743-6090 Cambridge 519-621-7993

Hi, my name is Odilia Monaghan.

I would like to thank everyone for coming today, and allowing me to share with you my experiences of returning to school. It has been a dream of mine to graduate from high school, and find a career to follow, not just have a job. Many of the friends I grew up with did not complete their education either. They also felt at the time it was unnecessary.  As the years went past, and job opportunities did not seem to present themselves, I realized something had to change. This is the story I would like to share with you.

I was born in Portugal in 1969. I am the third oldest of 5 children. I have two older brothers, one younger brother and a younger sister. I went to school in Portugal until the 6th grade. I had to leave school to help at home with my younger brothers and sister. This was a common practice in Portugal, as school was not considered that important.

I came to Canada at age 16. I had no chance of finding a job at that age and without any work experience or much schooling. The best I could do was to babysit during the day for friends and family. After a few years I found work in a textile plant operating a sewing machine. The work was repetitive, and very uncomfortable. My arms and shoulders would ache from sitting and operating the machine for 8 hours per day. It paid more than babysitting, but the money I was making was not very much. I always thought that I could not do any better, and this would be all that I could look forward to.

Many years later I was convinced to apply for Canadian Citizenship. It was explained to me that it would be a benefit to me to do this if it was my intention to stay in Canada. I had been putting this off as I knew the programme required schooling, and eventual testing to complete. The thought of returning to school was scary to me. With the small amount of education that I had, I felt embarrassed to try and felt that I would fail. After some persuasion I enrolled, and went to my classes. It was a great feeling to complete the programme and receive my Canadian citizenship. This may have been the boost I needed to gain some confidence in my ability to return to school.

With the completion of my citizenship I began to think about the next step in achieving my dream.

I called St. Louis school to inquire about attending school for my grade 12 diploma. I told them my situation, and my dream of graduating high school and receiving my PSW Certification. They were very helpful, and started me on the proper path to achieve this.

I was directed to The Literacy Group, and all my options were explained to me. They helped me determine the proper approach to achieve my goals, and to allow me to do this around my present work schedule. I was assessed as to determine where I stood at my present level of education. From there I was given the aid of a tutor, and the challenge began.

I was very afraid at first, and always believed that I was not smart enough to do this. But with the help of family and friends I found the courage to try.

I have been in school now for two years and everyone has noticed a change in me. I had low self-esteem and no confidence in myself.

My teacher Al Wilson believed in me and made me work towards my goals. The encouragement and the assistance he gave kept me moving forward.

With the help of family, friends and The Literacy Group, I have overcome my fears, and am working hard to better myself. I do not fear school anymore, and look forward to going. Learning is still a challenge, but I feel I will be successful making my dreams come true.

If you are struggling the way I was just ask for help like I did, and see how far you can go.

Always be proud of yourself and do not be afraid learn new things.