Olga dropped out of school after grade 9, which led her into poverty

Today she’s got a rewarding career because an education support program helped her get there.

Olga at Urban Circle Training Centre.

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Olga stopped going to school after grade 9 in Winnipeg’s Point Douglas neighbourhood.

“I was needed at home more than going to school, so I couldn’t finish my education. I come from a big family and I looked after my younger brothers and sisters.”

She always regretted not graduating, and worked in retail most of her adult life.“I was working, but I wasn’t getting very much money. I lived from paycheque to paycheque.”

“I was needed at home more than going to school, so I couldn’t finish my education.”

Olga wanted more. She dreamed of a career working with children and told her husband John she needed an education to make it happen.

“He gave me the support and said, ‘In your heart if you really want to do this, I will support you.’”

Olga followed her heart to Urban Circle Training Centre. In 2009 she graduated Grade 12, and in 2010 earned her Education Assistant certificate.

Today she works at Makoonsag Intergenerational Children’s Centre — Urban Circle’s on-site childcare for students — and is working towards her Early Childhood Education certificate through Red River College.

“It all started at Urban Circle. Getting my education, the support, the encouragement. I’m so proud of where I am.”

Haven Stumpf, Urban Circle’s Director of Operations and a 1996 graduate, says their graduation rates over the last 25 years average around 80% with more than 90% of graduates securing employment.

The traditional teachings of the Elders are at the heart of students’ success, Haven says, while job-skills training, résumé and interview skills, asset building programs and
money management training contribute to positive outcomes.

Haven says students and grads like Olga, “where there’s this incredible courage to keep going,” create a shared success.

“We form a family within the Circle of Life. We all come to the Circle of Learning with life knowledge and we learn from one another.”

Olga agrees. “They talk about the culture and healing processes and I needed that — to heal from growing up and the anxieties that I had in me. I had no faith in myself.”

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EricaFollowing her dream