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Never too late for a fresh start

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Anne Wenmaekers calls it one of the most difficult but satisfying decisions she’s ever had to make.


Wenmaekers, 44, decided two years ago to return to school to complete her education.


The East Kildonan resident dropped out of school after Grade 6 to help augment her family’s income by going to work.


Wenmaekers was injured while at work three years ago and suddenly found herself with time on her hands.


It was then that she decided to head back to the classroom and enrolled in the adult education program at McLeod Adult Learning Centre, which is operated by the River East Transcona School Division.


Wenmaekers has completed her courses and will graduate in June. In the meantime she’s volunteering with the foundations program offered at the centre.


"It’s been a wonderful experience. I’ve been an asset, I think, to a lot of people here," she said.


"I had very low self esteem when I first came. It’s brought me to where I am today, and I just want to give back."


Approximately 650 students are currently enrolled in the program, which has been offered since 1999. It’s one of the biggest adult learning programs in the province, according to Jan Smith, director of adult education for RETSD.


"It’s a very big decision for people to come and talk to us in the first place," said Lynn Kendel, registration and education adviser for the program.


"Then to carry through with actually taking courses, it’s a huge event for people to do that."


Adult education is a main focus this week as April 2 to 9 is International Adult Learners’ Week in Canada.
UNESCO launched Adult Learners’ Week in 2002 to highlight the importance of lifelong learning.


Noreen Bester can attest to that.


Bester, 49, was a few credits short of earning her high school diploma when she quit school in 1979.


She spoke to Kendel several times about joining the program but admits it took some convincing.


"I was so nervous, but it didn’t take long for me to feel at ease," Bester said. "The teachers are extremely patient, they go above and beyond."


Kendel stressed that it’s never too late for someone to go back to school.


"It’s really exciting to see people come back...They get into it and it starts opening up possibilities for them," Kendel said.


Bester said returning to school has been a life-changing experience. She is still taking come courses, but is expecting to earn her diploma this year.


"I’ve got my confidence back, I’ve accomplished something...That in itself is the best for me and it has helped me grow," she said.

adrian.alleyne@canstarnews.com

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