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Mental Health

Night School: A Place for Father and Daughter to Bloom

Barb Bawlf

Reprint Information:
Reprinted from "Supported Education" issue of Visions Journal, 2003, No. 17, p. 19

Not everyone looks to night school as a place to further his or her career. More often than not, night school is seen as a place where one finishes their Grade 12, or takes Industrial Education (i.e., woodworking, etc.). Well, times have changed, and the Lorne Fraser Fund is helping two individuals who are pursuing their dream of becoming florists by attending evening classes.

Michelle Harris, 40, of Vancouver and her father Larry Paquette, 64, formerly of Debdon, Saskatchewan, are both winners of 2002 Lorne Fraser bursaries. Coincidentally, they both requested funding for courses on floral arranging through the Vancouver School Board. We thought it would be interesting to interview the pair to find out how the bursaries have helped them attain their educational goals.

Upon hearing of their success in winning the bursaries, both felt very excited and thankful. Michelle had found out at a career assessment at the employment centre that she was suited to looking after plants at a nursery. Larry liked gardens and floral arrangements.

The financial award gave Michelle a chance to realize her dream and work towards establishing a career, while Larry felt he could go into a trade that he could do the rest of his life, as floral arranging is something you can do at any age.

Michelle will use the bursary to register for courses — on wedding flowers, and on silk and dried flowers — and to pay for materials. Larry is also to take the silk and dried flowers course and one on Christmas decorations. In total, the whole diploma program in Floral Arts takes 128 hours and three years to finish.

In response to the question: “What does education mean to you?” Michelle said it was a way to get ahead, make money and achieve independence. She has been on disability benefits for 15 years and prior to that she worked at a restaurant in Zellers. For Larry, education means socialization and a way of keeping busy.

Larry’s goals are to open a florist’s business at Coast Foundation, where he already volunteers. He plans on doing arrangements there and having mental health consumers deliver the flowers by bus. Michelle wishes to work in a florist’s shop and make the $300 allowable earnings on disability benefits.

At this point, father and daughter both report that their courses are going well, and they plan on taking more to become full-fledged florists. Larry says, “It’s a joy working with flowers” while Michelle’s words are: “It would be very disappointing if I couldn’t do this.” My impression is that this father and daughter team will achieve their dreams — as they both are very focused and determined. Seeing and hearing them talk about their studies and vision for the future is very inspiring and shows how meaningful a little bit of financial help can be.

 
About the author
Barbara works at CMHA BC Division in the area of consumer issues and peer support

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