Since starting school this fall at Aurora College in Yellowknife, Leslie Marie hasn’t missed a single class.
“I tell my two sons all the time about how to make good decisions and one of the things that comes up is you have to go to school every day; if you want an education, you have to show up for it,” Marie, 41, said. “I don’t plan on missing a single day of school; it’s for my boys, Phoenix and Quinton. It’s about me holding up my end of the deal, too.”
Marie moved from Fort Smith to Yellowknife to pursue his dreams and is halfway through his studies in the Social Work Access program, a 10-month upgrading program that prepares students for college courses.
Next year he hopes to be accepted into Aurora’s two-year Social Work diploma program and, from there, eventually secure his bachelor’s degree from the University of Regina.
“I’d like to keep going and get my Master’s, too,” he said.
Marie spent 10 years working in the mines and a couple more as a stay-at-home-dad while his girlfriend went back to school.
It was in 2009 when a social worker in his hometown of Fort Smith inspired him to think about social work as a profession he could one day call his own.
“She really helped me and my family out at a low point in our lives then,” he said. “I realized a lot of people have a negative outlook on social workers and that’s not the reality; they’re there to help. And they do make a difference. I knew I wanted to help others like me in the future, I wanted to be one of them.”
Marie said he feels it’s the right career choice because he has personal experience with social work from the “other side.”
“I’ve been there. I’ve seen the system playing out and I’ve gone through it myself, so I have that to offer, too.”
So far, Marie said he’s been impressed by the courses at the college and the tools instructors are giving him.
“I look at the essays I was writing in September and compare them to ones I’m writing now and, whoa, can you tell a difference,” he said. “Overall my writing has improved and I’m learning skills that will help me as I work towards my diploma, like I didn’t know anything about writing in APA style and that’s the main form of writing for the two-year program.”
The school also made his family’s transition to Yellowknife a smoother process, he said.
“The college’s support mechanism, the outreach, they’ve been there for me and it’s just been a great experience so far.”