Adult graduate Annette Soosay at The BRICK Learning Centre’s 2019 graduation ceremony. (File photo)

Adult graduate Annette Soosay at The BRICK Learning Centre’s 2019 graduation ceremony. (File photo)

If you didn’t walk the stage in high school, it may not be too late

The BRICK Learning Centre in Ponoka can help adult learners complete their high school diplomas

If you didn’t quite qualify for your high school diploma in Grade 12, you can still complete it regardless of your age and support is available right here in Ponoka.

The BRICK Learning Centre (BLC) is able to assist community members with completing their high school diploma. Unlike a GED which is a diploma equivalency, students who complete their requirements are able to receive an actual diploma.

“It’s a general service for anybody, to assess what they need, and get them in touch with agencies,” said Ian Tisdale, principal of BLC.

First, the centre completes an assessment with the applicant, to see what their individual needs are. Then, they build a plan for the adult learner to complete their diploma or refer them to resources.

Sometimes it’s as simple as a student needing to complete CALM or using their employment to count towards work experience credit, he says.

If they need to complete courses, adult learners are able to attend classes in-person with other students, with schedules that meet their needs.

“We work with whatever they need so that individual can get their diploma,” said Tisdale.

Tisdale says most adult learners who come in for a consult heard about the service through word-of-mouth, and BLC would like to let more people know about it.

“This is why this is an important conversation to have,” he said.

The school’s current student population of around 200 includes about 20 adult learners, says Tisdale.

The learning centre is not able to accept all applicants to the adult learning program.

The learning centre does need to be selective about who can enter the program, as they aren’t able to facilitate all adult learners,. Their primary focus remains providing a safe and caring learning environment for youth in Grades 10 to 12, or aged 15 to 19, says Tisdale.

“Our philosophy is when you educate a community as a whole, the whole community is better,” said Tisdale.

And true to that philosophy, adult learners who complete their high school diplomas through the BRICK Learning Centre get to walk the stage with the rest of the graduating class.

Although all graduates work hard, struggle and fight to complete their diploma, seeing an adult learner achieve their diploma can be very meaningful, says Tisdale.

“There’s a different level of special,” he said.

For example, last year a mother graduated with her son, and one of their oldest graduates to-date was in their 60s and walked the stage with their grandchild.

One 22-year-old he met with recently who will be attending in the fall to complete a Grade 11 science course, says they want to complete their diploma so their child can see them graduate.

“It shows their children the importance (of a diploma),” he said.

This year, the graduating class of 2021 has 31 graduates, including four adult learners.

The BRICK Learning Centre will be celebrating their 2021 graduating class with a drive-up graduation ceremony on June 29, running from 9 a.m. to about 3 p.m.

Rather than speeches, the learning centre provides students with a keepsake that includes messages from Tisdale, MP Blaine Calkins and MLA Ron Orr.

Since the learning centre’s re-branding, they are continuing to strive to change the stigma surrounding outreach schools and highlight the positive outcomes they are seeing with their students, says Tisdale.

Although less common, the school can also sometimes assist those needing to upgrade a course for post secondary prerequisites, however, most often the students are able to do that at their college or university.

Funding is available for adult learners who want to complete their high school diplomas.

The Government of Alberta provides funding students under the age of 20 to complete the diplomas, and there are other programs that provide funding for adult learners to complete courses, including Alberta Works.

For adults who are interested in completing their high school diploma, Tisdale says June is a great time to come in for an assessment, because if they’re needing to apply for funding. The turn-around can take up to eight weeks, which means funds would then be in place for the start of classes in the fall.

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