Return to Class Proves Vital

Upgrading Sends Christina Lake Couple on Education Adventure


The pride of accomplishment derived from a high school diploma is significant, regardless of age. Proof can be found on the wall of Marilyn and Tom Wynn’s home in Christina Lake where a pair of freshly earned diplomas now hang.

In her own words, Marilyn Wynn describes her recent learning journey made possible by Selkirk College’s School of Academic Upgrading & Development.

Grand Forks Upgrading One

Marilyn and Tom Wynn walked across the stage at the Selkirk College Graduation 2017 Ceremony on the Castlegar Campus this past April to receive their high school diploma. The Christina Lake couple returned to class in Grand Forks to take courses through the School of Academic Upgrading & Development.

Returning to School with Enthusiasm

You asked why we came back to get our high school diploma. So I will tell you our story.

My husband works for two of the area waterworks districts at Christina Lake. He took several EOCP courses and applied to write for his next level ticket as a Water Treatment Operator, but was denied as he did not have his Grade 12.

He was almost 63 and had worked for TECK in Trail for 34 years. He had also worked for the Steelworkers Union diligently and full-time for 20-plus years in the safety field. He had taught safety courses locally at Harrison, all across the country and had even been sent to Poland to speak at an environmental conference. He fought to improve working conditions and educate workers (and even high school students) so that they would return home after work to their families. He was well respected in his field. He had done all this without a diploma, yet he could not write for his next level ticket.

Tom went to Selkirk College in Grand Forks to find out about how to achieve getting his Grade 12 and came home to inform me that you could no longer write a GED equivalency. Now, you had to take the full courses in order to graduate. I have worked as a bookkeeper for 30 some odd years and have my own bookkeeping business, but had not graduated either. Not graduating was a regret we had both shared. So, I said that if he wanted to do it, I would do it with him.

Grand Forks Upgrading Two

We met with Grand Forks Upgrading Instructor Spencer Tracy who gave us an exam to find out where our strong and weak subjects were and worked with us for a few months to refresh our memories and try to get rid of the cobwebs in our older brains. Spencer is as amazing a person as the actor whose name he shares and is truly a gift to any student. He artfully makes learning interesting and not nearly the chore we thought it would be (with the exception of book reports). We were fortunate to get one credit for our working careers and he guided us through English and a Math refresher. The following fall, we started Math online and Social Studies (the history of Canada). We attended the classes with several other adult students of various ages and backgrounds. While we had experienced a lot of the topics covered, it was most interesting to hear the point of view of those who had not.

My husband loves history and I love math, so we did our best to help each other through the courses and assignments, challenging each other. It is funny how, as an adult, it was so important to get to every class and to try to ace every test. At times, it was difficult to juggle both work and school, and we had some bad times when my husband took a fall and broke several ribs and also when my brother got sick and died, but we hardly missed a class.

Then, one day, Spencer asked us if we would be interested in attending the Selkirk College graduation ceremonies. Wow! A graduation ceremony? Could we get through it in time? We had a new goal and we even did Math homework every day while out of the country on vacation. We managed to pull it off and get it all done! And not only did we get it done, but we got straight-As! But, we have to say that without the incredible Spencer, we don't know if we would have made it happen with such sense of enjoyment, satisfaction and accomplishment.

We have six daughters, five son-in-laws, and 13 grandchildren, but we had not told any of them about our adventure to return to school. I mean, what if we failed? Two of our granddaughters had recently graduated themselves. Now it was time to spill the beans. So, we sent them all an invitation to attend our graduation ceremony which included our grad photo. There was much confusion at first—what were we talking about? And disbelief that we had been at it for over a year without them knowing. A grandson wondered if we (two old folks) would be attending the high school grad ceremony, and how weird would that be? But they were also excited for us and we told them we realized, even at our ages, how important it was to graduate. If we could do it, all our grandkids could too. It was short notice for them, as we completed in the nick of time, but we hoped they could come to see us take that trek across the stage.

And they did. We were fortunate to have many of them and our sister-in-law come and form their own cheering section. One daughter even watched the ceremony on Facetime from work. It was a very special day for both of us. Surprisingly emotional. And fun. Wow! We did it! We actually did it! And we walked across the stage together—the same way we did all the classes—and got our diplomas.

I was sad my brother was not there, but I was extremely touched when my sister-in-law gave us a graduation card and explained that he had picked it out before he died, knowing we could do it.

My husband Tom also sent a copy of our grad photo and the invitation to his 93-year-old Mom, who lived in Edmonton, and was able to hear how her say how proud she was of him just a couple of weeks before she died. He laughed with her and told her how ironic he found it that he had received his graduation diploma and his first old age pension cheque in the same month.

Tom just wrote his Water Treatment Operator Exam this fall and found out that he passed and now finally has his next level ticket. And a raise!

Thank you Spencer!

And that is our story.

Best regards,

Marilyn & Tom Wynn

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