Lack of self-confidence can hinder a prospective student’s decision to apply for college or university. This is a struggle Christina Denis, alumna of the Northern Lakes College (NLC) University Studies program, knows intimately.
“I was a high school dropout,” said Christina. “I’d moved from my home province with my parents when I was 16, and my education just sort of got lost in the mix. Larger schools never would have accepted my application because I didn’t finish high school. I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I had very little confidence when I arrived at Northern Lakes College. At first, I was so scared. I thought I was going to be so old compared to everybody there.”
In her mid-20s, Christina found herself working at a job that didn’t challenge her, and she was often lonely as her husband, Jason, worked away in camp.
The couple were hoping for a child, but Christina felt like her life was on hold. Jason encouraged Christina to obtain her GED and apply to the University Studies program at NLC.
Despite her concerns about academic performance, Christina soon found herself moving through her courses with great enjoyment. The classes were challenging and invigorating, and she formed quick friendships with other students.
“NLC was the best place to start. I don’t know if I would have followed through if I had started at a larger university,” said Christina. “All my classmates were so nice and welcoming.”
Christina graduated from the University Studies program in 2007, and she enrolled at the University of Alberta to complete her degree. Upon graduation, she found a teaching position in Sherwood Park.
When Christina and Jason decided to return to her home province of Manitoba, she found a job teaching at Waywayseecappo Community School.
Thanks to an education that provided a strong understanding of childhood development and mental health, Christina is flourishing as a teacher and is forging nurturing relationships with her students.
Christina also took on the role of head coach at a gymnastics club in a neighbouring community, and she was thrilled to coach at-risk youth in their athletic growth and emotional development.
It seemed there was only one thing missing: Jason and Christina’s hopes of bringing children into their family had not come to fruition.
However, it was plain to Christina that so many children needed parents. After all, some of her own students were in the foster care system.
Determined to offer a child in need a home, Christina and Jason applied to become foster parents, and their dreams of becoming parents eventually came true.
Now a permanent foster mother to her daughter, Christina approaches parenting with a broad, compassionate and well-informed perspective.
“I’m forever grateful for what I learned in my degree. It helped me create a fulfilling career, but it also helped me better understand childhood trauma,” said Christina. “Because of my education and professional experiences, I was able to see what kind of foster home I wanted to create for the children in my care.”