At 61, William might not look like the average college student. Nevertheless, he’s determined to go back to school in order to help people who’ve struggled with the same things he has.
“As an alcoholic, I can often be more helpful and understanding of the alcoholic’s mind and heart simply because I’ve experienced it,” William says. So, with the help of CJHS staff, he applied for college to become an addictions counsellor.
After getting sober last May, William came to CJHS for help getting a record suspension (formerly known as a pardon).
“The intake worker handed me a flyer for digital literacy classes and I have been attending classes ever since,” he says.
William learned how to turn on a computer, and how to use Google Drive and Microsoft Word. The digital literacy instructor eventually brought up the idea of school.
William had always wanted to go back to school but was hesitant at first. “I thought to myself: ‘I am 61 years old. I have spent the last 40 some years killing brain cells. How can I possibly do that?’”
With the help of CJHS staff, William learned the digital literacy and other skills he needed for school, which he’ll be starting in August 2018.
I AM MORE THAN MY CRIMINAL RECORD
William also shared his story for CJHS’s public education initiative called “I Am More Than My Criminal Record.” The initiative gives individuals with a criminal record an opportunity to share their experiences and voice who they truly are. By sharing these stories with the public, CJHS hopes to reduce the stigma associated with a criminal record.
“My criminal record created obstacles in finding a job,” William says, making it difficult for him to move forward with his life.
CJHS has programs that teach job skills and training, reading, writing, math and other literacy goals for people who have a criminal record or other justice system involvement. With job prospects, along with housing and support, it is much less likely an individual will reoffend.
A FRESH START
Although perhaps a bit daunting, William is looking forward to beginning school.
“Now that class starts soon, I have to think about taking the CTrain, walking to get to my class and sitting in a classroom,” he says. “I don’t know how I am going to do all of this, but I am going to give it a try. One day at a time.”