Literacy pays off — literally.
Carla McKenzie, a participant in the Open Doors adult literacy program at King Edward School (825 Selkirk Ave.), received the Peter Gzowski Learner Achievement Award from Literacy Partners of Manitoba (LPM) on Fri., Nov. 29. The award consisted of some books, an e-reader and a $200 cheque.
McKenzie started attending Open Doors last September. It’s been a tough road for the 38-year-old mother of six, who lost her young son in December 2009.
"Returning to school has allowed me to put this negative experience in the past and turn things around so that finally something positive is happening," said McKenzie in a speech read by Open Doors co-ordinator Margaret Banasiak.
"My son will always be with me and I’m sure he’ll be proud of me, knowing that I’m trying to better my life and the lives of my children. I’ve decided to move forward."
McKenzie will complete her time in the Open Doors program in the New Year. She plans to go to Red River College, do her GED testing and work towards becoming an educational assistant.
According to LPM executive director John McDonald, it’s stories like McKenzie’s that the organization wants to spotlight.
"I’ve only been (at LPM) for four months, and I think the big gap we haven’t been addressing enough in the past is the celebration and promotion of literacy journeys for individuals and organizations within the province," McDonald said.
"That’s what we’re going to start focusing on, giving people the opportunity to talk about their stories and the literacy journey they’ve had, whether they’re newcomers to Manitoba or individuals that for whatever reason had to leave school when they were young and have now gone back to it."
And just going back to school is a feat in itself, according to Banasiak.
"Number one, that decision takes courage, because you have to come into a classroom setting again," she said in her speech to the Open Doors students.
"Number two, planning, because you have families at home and other people you need to take care of, and number three, commitment, because it’s easy to start things, it’s harder to continue and go from the beginning to end."
Banasiak, who also runs adult literacy programs at Luxton School (111 Polson Ave.) and in the Lord Selkirk Park housing development, said the programs do provide free child care.
Luckily for McKenzie, her children attend King Edward, so she’s able walk her kids to class and then go to class herself.
"I’m glad I took this opportunity to come to school through this program, to be with my children, because I get to experience things with them in school too," McKenzie said.
"Plus, I love the people I’m in the class with. Everyone gets along really well. It’s just a really nice environment and even better when my children are involved with me."