Finding ‘purpose’ and ‘gratitude’

Transitions to post-secondary education helps students find a path through adversity

Getting through post-secondary education can be one of life’s great challenges for even the most dedicated students.

Add in mental health or addiction issues and the process of attending college or university may seem impossible.

Enter George Brown’s transitions to post-secondary education (TPE) program, which according to coordinator Jo Petite has existed at the college in one form or another for forty years. Designed specifically for those who have experienced difficulties relating to mental health and addictions, TPE is meant to help prepare students for the workforce, further learning opportunities, or any similar objectives that prospective attendees might have.

TPE is a free, three-semester program, though there is certainly some degree of flexibility in terms of how long students can take to complete it, and is funded by the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. Students engage in a wide variety of courses, building skills in group work, writing, computers, public speaking, career development and more.

Former TPE student Carolyn Mooney has elected to continue on at George Brown in the social service worker (SSW) program. She serves as the accessibility representative with the George Student Association (SA).

The SA funds The Dialog.

Mooney has experienced a number of obstacles in her pursuit of academic achievement. Following difficulties in high school, Mooney was adrift until TPE helped her rediscover her potential. Classes in English, art, and writing particularly encouraged Mooney, she said to use her “voice and pen to great effect.”

But for Mooney, TPE’s most valuable lesson proved to be self-advocacy. “I had learned how to ask for what I needed, and how to ensure what I needed was respected.”

Don Fleming, also a student in the SSW program, reflects the experience of many TPE students. Away from post-secondary education for twenty years, Fleming said he enrolled in TPE to move to a life of “purpose and gratitude” following struggles with mental health and substance use.

The most valuable thing I learned from TPE is that I don’t need to allow myself to be held back by my challenges,” said Fleming. “Everyone needs help sometimes. I’m a member of the ‘everyone’ demographic.

Fleming’s decision to dedicate himself to social work and his status as a mature student indicate a number of the program’s strengths, especially its orientation towards public service and diversity. Many TPE students, having experienced the frequently difficult process of seeking social assistance, have come to know the system, and as a result want to help make a positive change in the community at large.

The TPE program aims to welcome students from all walks of life who have had challenges staying in school, including brushes with the criminal justice system. The program’s diversity is one of its very best qualities.

TPE offers a second chance to those who might have never experienced a first, especially within a post-secondary education system that often marginalizes those who require some additional help in order to succeed.

The TPE program is hosting information and English assessment sessions from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 14, 21, 28 and March 7. All of the sessions are at 200 King St. E., in B155 with the exception of the one on Feb. 28, for which the room is yet to be determined.

With files from Wai Yip Tam

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Finding ‘purpose’ and ‘gratitude’