Tanda Garrett was eager to get started on her future and pursue her career passion – childhood education. She knew she loved working with children and wanted to make a difference in young lives.
“I’ve always wanted to go into the educational field, but I would prefer to work one-on-one with children as an educational assistant,” said Tanda. “I needed an EA for some of my own educational journey, so I know firsthand how much of an impact they can have on a child’s success.”
“I want to give back, and be for others what someone was for me.”
As a student at Warburg School in the Village of Warburg, a small but energetic community located around 60 kilometres west of Leduc, her access to post-secondary education was fairly limited.
Enter the Black Gold School Division’s Dual Credit Program. Launched in 2018, the program allows grade 10, 11, or 12 students to earn college/university credits from a post-secondary institution and high school credits from their school by completing college-level coursework.
The Division will pay all post-secondary school tuition fees for students enrolled in dual credit courses. Students will be responsible for purchasing all textbooks and required materials.
This program is in partnership with Black Gold School Division, Lakeland College, Olds College, Portage College, Northern Lakes College, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, and Alberta Education.
“Our dual credit programs give students a more personalized way to complete high school and make the transition to post-secondary education,” said Jennifer Southcombe, Dual Credit and Instructional Design Lead Teacher. “Students can try one course or multiple courses from the same or different career pathways; it’s a great opportunity to identify future career interests.”
Tanda readily admits that due to her location and financial barriers, she probably never would have taken post-secondary training after graduation if her school had not offered dual credit courses. When she found out about the dual credit program, she jumped at the chance.
“I chose the dual credit program because it was accessible, easier because of proximity, and a wise financial decision,” said Tanda. “I am so glad I took the plunge. The experience was great, and the teachers were all helpful and supportive.”
Now, with the encouragement and support of her teachers and school administration, Tanda Garrett is the first Black Gold student to complete the entire Dual Credit Educational Assistant Certificate through Northern Lakes College, while gaining invaluable work experience at her high school.
“Our entire school is so proud of what Tanda has accomplished in achieving her certificate,” said Warburg School Principal Wendy Maltias. “She has gained so much from the Educational Assistant Program. Not only has she learned the skills to be a great EA, but she has also gained other life skills as well.”
Tanda enjoyed the online classes and the flexibility provided by the College. The school and college staff were super-supportive, setting up local practicums and Zoom calls whenever she needed help.
Over the past two years, she worked to conquer her biggest challenge – finding a good balance between school work, practicums and social life. “At first, it was trying to juggle college courses on top of my high school, which meant being very disciplined with my time management,” she said. “I definitely had to prioritize.”
“The dual credit courses are university or college-level classes, and they are completely instructed and graded by professors from each of the schools in the program,” said Principal Maltais. “Students must be prepared for the rigour and pace of these courses. For some high school students, this is a real eye-opening experience.”
This year, Tanda focused on her college courses, and spent more time studying and researching her chosen career path by talking to parents and EAs working in the field. Now in the practicum portion of her program, she works at Warburg School all day, and then on her college courses in the evenings.
“The courses have helped me not only read about scenarios but see them for myself during the practicum,” said Tanda. “Learning hands-on and seeing how theoretical concepts are actually applied to real life scenarios is how I learn best. It has given me a lot of confidence in myself and my abilities to make a difference.”
Tanda is convinced that the dual credit program was instrumental in preparing her for a career in education. “I am super-excited about graduating this year,” she said. “I can hardly wait to get started in the classroom.”
“I would definitely recommend the program to others,” she added. “It is affordable, flexible, and accessible, especially for students in rural communities who might not otherwise have the chance to go to college.”
Tanda’s parents, siblings, and grandmas were excited to attend her virtual graduation ceremony at Northern Lakes College on June 4, 2021. Congratulations Tanda, and all the best for the future!
For Warburg and other rural schools, the dual credit program has been one of the best recent advances for public education in Alberta. “We want to empower our students to make good choices, take charge of their future and set them up for success in the larger world,” said Principal Maltais. “This program allows our students to explore beyond high school, get a taste of the outside educational world all within the comfort and familiarity of the school they’ve called home for many years.”
Are you eager to get started on your future? To pursue your passion? Learn more about the Black Gold School Division’s dual credit programs: https://bit.ly/34J0GS5.