Social service worker student Swynda Nichols balances school and family
Coming to Canada as an immigrant isn’t easy. Nor is being a single mother without support. Starting college over again after a long absence and as an immigrant is very difficult, but Swynda Nichols embraces challenges.
“I have overcome all of those,” said Nichols. “I still have my own challenges just like anyone else, but I have learned how to deal with it and I still want to push myself to move on to bigger and better things in life.”
Nichols’ life story is nothing less than inspirational. She is an active individual, a volunteer and a cheerful soul who can always be found helping others.
Nichols had been enrolled in the social service workers program in 2007 but took a break to take care of her child, returning to George Brown College (GBC) in 2014 to pursue the pre-community services and then the social service workers program.
Having been to school before, Nichols knew how to navigate her way within the school. But balancing her studying and taking care of her child in a city like Toronto was the real challenge for her.
“The hard part was balancing school and family and my son was pretty young at that time,” said Nichols. “So I had to decide who I am going to put first and I did put my child first and then came back in 2014 while figuring out if I could really handle college life all over again.”
Accepting the fact that parenting never came with a manual, Nichols has learned to draw power from being a mother. “I had to learn how to balance it and I do it everyday,” she said. “I had to get up and I am able to walk around and see myself in the mirror and see my son, that’s where I get my power from.”
Nichols said a career in social service work said has always been her passion.
She was accepted to the program but it brought a lot of emotional and physical challenges. She regards these challenges as a part of her emotional and personal growth.
“I feel like in order for me to learn and to grow, I have to do things that are challenging. And it brings out the best in me.”
Nichols had the opportunity to go to Jamaica for international development work. “Getting to see a culture that is similar to yours but also different in many ways was really great experience for me.” Nichols immigrated to Canada from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Her trip laid the foundation for her to start the Student International Development Club (SID) at George Brown. As a part of their mini-initiative, SID also organized Black History Month events in collaboration with the Student Association (SA) and other organizations at GBC. The SA funds the publication of The Dialog.
Nichols is currently working on a project at her son’s school, Charles E Webster Junior, which aims to support children with learning differences. “I live in a marginalized community which is predominantly black and a lot of children suffer from learning differences,” Nichols said. “I just want to bring to light the negative stereotypes of what learning differences are and all the different learning differences that different children have.”
While Nichols has faced many challenges, the biggest for her was coming to Canada as an immigrant and feeling the sense of not belonging, not understanding your rights and privileges and not understanding what you have access to.
“It is hard especially in the educational system where you need help and you go to one specific department and then you’re sent all over the college,” she said.
Her experience of navigating the school system as a new immigrant is part of what drove Nichols to work and volunteer at Peerconnect. “Being able to help students when they come to you for help, even though you are a student but even then realizing that you can also impact a student is a huge deal.”