Catherine Spike is excited about earning her high school diploma, even if it has taken her a little longer than most to acquire it.
Spike, now in her 40s, was 19 when she decided to leave school before finishing Grade 12.
“I just didn’t want to continue school at the time, so I took a little vacation,” says Spike. “I started battling with issues in life — addictions, mental health, depression. I wanted to go back to school to get my Grade 12. It was going through my mind for the last 20 years.”
Spike kept busy with babysitting jobs and volunteering with several charitable events and organizations, including the Scotiabank Blue Nose Marathon and the MS Society of Canada, even while combating her addiction issues.
For years, she worried that her history with drugs would pose a barrier to acquiring her diploma, a goal which she had on her bucket list.
“It wasn’t on my to-do list on the very top for quite some time,” says Spike, who finally applied to return to school this summer.
Spike is currently taking three classes a week at the Dartmouth Learning Network, including essential skills, math and communications. She’ll be taking these classes for at least a year.
“I’m going to decide from there what I want to do, if I want to get my Grade 12 through GED or if I want to do adult learning,” says Spike.
One thing she has in her corner is a bursary from Literacy Nova Scotia, to the tune of $500 toward furthering her education. Her instructors recommended her for the bursary due to her commitment to her own education and her long history of community activism.
“I think she deserves recognition for trying really hard. She’s met a lot of barriers to get here,” says Amanda Sabo, one of Spike’s instructors. “She’s trying really hard to make these changes and it’s really inspirational.”
“Bursary awards can often make the difference between being able to continue in a learning program and dropping out,” says Elaine Frampton, communications co-ordinator for Literacy Nova Scotia. “The bursary money can be used for anything — for transportation costs, clothing to wear to school, books, childcare — anything that they need.”
“I can use it for school clothes, supplies that they don’t have at school,” says Spike. “Stuff that I don’t have to buy, like papers, binders, scribblers, but I’d like to buy on my own. I want to be independent.”
“It means a lot to her,” says Sabo. “Not only the money amount, but I think she feels worthwhile. I think she feels worthy of it and of herself and the effort that she’s making.”
Spike knows it can be hard to make a move toward your goals when you’ve faced a detour in life, but she hopes her story will inspire others to be bold and take the steps necessary to better their own lives.
“It’s going to change my life deeply. I’ll be able to say that I finally accomplished one of my bucket list items,” she says. “It’s never too late. Do it. Put your mind to it, get the support that you need and just go for it.”