Despite personal struggles throughout their school year, two single moms from Prince George are excelling, with the support of their instructors and each other, in CNC’s Early Childhood Care and Learning (ECCL) program.
Both Lisa McKay, 27, and Ashley Carnrite, 34, completed the ECCL certificate program in the Spring of 2019, and are heading back to CNC in September to finish the ECCL diploma. Having just given a speech - together - at the CNC convocation ceremony, they are feeling proud and hopeful, even considering opening a childcare centre together one day.
The two students also aren’t shy to talk about challenges they faced along the way, and if anything, want to share them. They believe the hardships have strengthened their own characters as well as their relationship with each other.
Ashley, who has three children aged 2 to 12, had a shock just before she started school. Her grandmother, who she was close with, had a stroke just two days before the ECCL program started.
Lisa, who has a 5-year-old daughter, said she basically hit rock bottom this year and due to PTSD from her past job, which resulted in financial hardship, is still amazed she didn’t lose her house.
“We’ve both faced a lot of adversity this year - from PTSD to day-to-day parenting struggles,” Lisa said. “I definitely learned that rock bottom doesn’t mean the end.”
Ashley and Lisa originally met in 2013, in prenatal class. When their daughters were just a few months old, they realized they were neighbours.
“We became good friends and our relationship just got stronger and stronger,” Lisa said.
Last year, while working with youth in care - "an emotional taxing and extremely rewarding job" - Lisa decided to go back to school.
"The amount of trauma our youth of today have faced and continue to face is heart breaking, to say the least," she said. "Being able to walk alongside them while they persevered through that trauma was, and continues to be, an inspiration to me. I learned just as much, if not more, from them as they may have learned from me. During the seven years I worked with youth, I learned a lot about early intervention so I decided to look into it further and ended up being inspired by the Early Childhood Care and Learning Program and wanted to further my knowledge on helping children."
She signed up for CNC’s ECCL program. On Lisa’s first day of the program, Ashley spoke with some of the instructors and decided to register too.
Ashley had been taking a medical transcription course, planning to work from home while she took care of her children.
“I’m really social though,” she said. “I realized I didn’t want to be home all the time.”
CNC’s ECCL program, its instructors, and Lisa and Ashley’s relationship with each other has been life-changing for the students.
“The way the instructors deliver the ECCL program is one of my biggest inspirations,” Lisa said. “They do it in such a way that everyone in the class feels valued, appreciated and knowledgeable. We all get to collaborate and work together, learn from each other. It resonates with what we plan to do with children later.“
Ashley appreciated that the instructors ensured the program fit for each individual student.
“We all learn in different ways and have challenges in our lives,” she said. “Our instructors wanted everyone to succeed. One of biggest things I learned was to meet children where they are at, and that’s what our instructors did with us.”
In working for an Aboriginal-based program during one of her three practicums, Lisa said she learned a valuable skill - how to guide children by keeping their respect as your number one priority.
“Meaning us respecting them,” she said. “Not the other way around.”
Ashley on the other hand, struggled in a couple of her practicums.
“It made me reflect and realize that I had never been very good at advocating for myself. So this actually was an opportunity to grow in that area,” Ashley said, adding, “I learned lots about child development in the program, but I learned just as much about myself as a person.”
As for the girls’ relationship with each other, Ashley said, they use each other to lean on.
"I wouldn’t have made it through the year without Lisa,” she said.
Lisa and Ashley will remain side-by-side this summer, as both were hired as support workers at the Child Development Centre.