Written by Arthur Gallant, @ArthurGallant27, CAF ambassador and former young person in care.
There are many things we’re all certain we won’t become or accomplish in our lifetimes; winning the lottery, stepping foot on the moon, or becoming Prime Minister. For me, becoming a college graduate was something I had always dreamed of but never imagined possible.
The last time I graduated from something was in grade 8; I only had a few high school credits to my name. Every time I tried to go back to high school, life got in the way. My high school years were a very turbulent time for me as I was still moving around from group home to group home. I guess you could say I associated education with negativity.
Every time I tried to go back to high school, life got in the way. My high school years were a very turbulent time for me as I was still moving around from group home to group home. I guess you could say I associated education with negativity.
In 2009, I was 1 of 100 students out of 1,200 applicants admitted to Humber College’s journalism program and the only student admitted without a high school diploma. I experienced great accomplishments such as interviewing prominent politicians but the highlight was doing my internship at CTV’s Canada AM alongside Beverly Thomson and Seamus O’Regan, both supporters of the Children’s Aid Foundation.
Shortly into my third and final year of journalism school, I dropped out to deal with personal issues and kept putting off my return. After much soul-searching and reflection I decided that I needed to consider a different career that allowed me to use the lessons I learned during my rocky childhood and apply them to situations in my career.
I turned to my former lawyer during my time in care, who is now a judge, and told him about my interest in law. After shadowing him and asking a million questions I began to reflect again. While this may sound cheesy, I had a dream in April 2014 that I was a paralegal. I knew it was a sign from out of this world and the sign I had been so badly waiting for. Within a month of this dream I was in the classroom on my way to becoming a paralegal.
My former CAS worker put me in touch with the Children’s Aid Foundation, which was able to offer me much needed financial assistance to help in eliminating the cost barrier school posed. Throughout the past year, I kept doubting myself and my abilities. There were so many times when I wanted to drop out of school. I didn’t have a legitimate reason to drop out but ‘school drop out’ was a label I was so accustomed to having that I almost felt as if the universe expected me to drop out yet again.
I’ll be honest; when I initially attended Recognition Night 2014 I was envious of all the graduates on stage because I never thought I’d get the chance to do so. Yet days after, I thought if so many other Crown Wards could graduate, then so could I. I was determined to do whatever I had to be on that same stage as a graduate in 2015.
I’ll be honest; when I initially attended Recognition Night 2014 I was envious of all the graduates on stage because I never thought I’d get the chance to do so. Yet days after, I thought if so many other Crown Wards could graduate, then I could, too. I was determined to do whatever I had to be on that same stage as a graduate in 2015.
School was nonetheless challenging and it tested me in ways I never thought it could — and, I’m not talking about assignments and exams. As days, weeks, and months passed, I was getting closer to graduating and it finally seemed realistic. I must admit I was nervous and thought some unknown roadblock or barrier would be put up to prevent me from getting my diploma.
I’ve had so many labels attached to me: high school drop out, college drop out, youth in care, former youth in care; the list goes on. Yet for the first time in my life I can say that I am a college graduate. It is the most surreal title and feeling in the world. Since graduating on June 12, 2015, I’ve spent hours looking at and holding my diploma as I’ve reflected at how far I’ve come and how long it took for me to see this day come to fruition. My journey isn’t over yet. In August, I’ll be writing my Law Society of Upper Canada paralegal licensing exam, which was made possible by the HSBC Youth Opportunity Grant.
I now feel as if I can take on the world because what once seemed impossible turned out to be very possible. I now believe I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.
To all youth in care and former youth in care reading this, I have a message for you: It’s OK to make mistakes. Just because you drop out or mess up at something doesn’t mean that you are a failure. As W.E. Hickson once said “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, again.” In my case, I tried several times and it eventually paid off for me and I know it will do the same for you.
I want to thank everybody who has always believed in me and who taught me to believe in myself. I need to stress that Children’s Aid Foundation was what I ultimately needed to achieve my dreams and become a graduate, and for that I will forever be grateful.