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2018 Champion - Andrea McWilliams

Education expands minds and opportunities

Andrea McWilliams felt she was stuck, not going anywhere, until she went back to school as an adult.

The 41-year-old Norfolk County woman had dropped out of high school more than two decades ago, but she faced obstacles gaining good employment without a diploma.

Photo of 2018 Education Champion Andrea McWilliams

“My main reason for going back to school was I wasn’t satisfied with where I was in life. I was tired of dead-end jobs,” she says. “My mentality was, if I’m not working, then I should be getting an education to expand my mind.”

Andrea has been selected as a 2018 Education Champion by the Education WORKS Alliance, after being nominated by Fanshawe College.

The Scotland resident turned to Fanshawe College Community Career and Employment Services, where staff suggested finishing high school would help her achieve her goal of better employment.

Andrea then worked diligently with Fanshawe College’s Literacy and Basic Skills program to get her GED, considered the equivalent of a high school diploma.

That work led to her being accepted into Fanshawe’s Cook Level 1 Pre-Apprenticeship program last July at the age of 40

Just two days into the course, Andrea landed a part-time job as a cook at a nursing home in Brantford.

Andrea had to juggle more than just full-time studies and a part-time job, she also found out she was pregnant with her first child.

“My biggest obstacle (to getting an education) was balancing a new marriage and finding out I’m pregnant with my first child at a very seasoned age,” she says.

“You gotta muscle through it. Life doesn’t wait for perfect timing. Soldier up!”

Andrea said she was inspired and motivated by women who worked at Fanshawe: Kaley Horton (Program Instructor), Tracey McIntyre (Admissions), Krista Zilkey (Coordinator),and Lisa Savoy (Placement Specialist).

Andrea now feels her life “has a purpose.” She is getting strong marks and is already dreaming ahead, thinking she wants to have a food truck and serve food from Norfolk farms.

With many drastic changes in her life in a short of time – moving to a farm in the country from the GTA, getting her GED, starting college, getting married and having a baby – she doesn’t believe in standing still.

“You see the TV commercials about ‘It’s never too late to go back to school.’ Just do it. There might be a day when you will say to yourself: ‘I missed that chance.’ Carpe Diem!”


Story by Mark Skeffington, Education WORKS Alliance

Submitted Photo