Alternate education gives Chilliwack student tools to succeed

Chilliwack's Education Centre brought opportunity to graduate, win scholarships, and attend UFV

Chilliwack Education Centre graduate

Life may have tried to knock down Shawna Ferguson, but she’s ‘standing tall’ these days.

The 19-year-old Education Centre graduate has earned herself a scholarship by moving past previous trouble achieving in class, with a Coast Capital Standing Tall Award.

“It’s for students who have been through pretty rough times, adversity, and managed to get through it,” she says.

“I always struggled with bullying, I had a lot of anxiety and depression,” she explains. “Things with family weren’t that great, and then my mom went blind. I ended up dropping out of school a number of times.”

When she decided to go back, after taking eight months off to help take care of her mom, the first door she knocked on was at Chilliwack secondary. She explained her history, and what had set her back. They encouraged her to give the ‘Ed Centre’ a try, and from the moment Ferguson arrived she knew it was the right choice.

Still, troubles arose and she was just about ready to leave that school, too.

“At one point I was going to drop out of the Ed Centre,” she says. “But the principal told me about the construction course, and it turned out it was a good fit.”

The Trades Discovery class is a unique learning experience, led by teacher Ryan Pastorchik. It’s run in partnership with the UFV Trades and Technology Centre, and it’s run very much like a work site. The hands-on approach appealed to Ferguson, who thrived in her new educational setting.

“I’ve never been one to sit in a desk and write on paper all day,” she says. “I always enjoyed working with my hands.”

She says if it weren’t for Chuck Lawson, principal at the Education Centre, bringing the program to the school, she probably wouldn’t have graduated.

“Shawna is a very bright and capable student who was disconnected from her school,” Lawson says, adding that she “instantly connected with this opportunity and quickly became a leader in the class.”

They took on a large project at the centre, building a 12 x 25 foot outbuilding. After that was finished, Ferguson and 14 of her classmates moved into a 10-week Trades Discovery class at UFV.

They were given the chance to try out a multitude of in-demand, hands-on career options. For Ferguson, carpentry really stood out. And the Education Centre’s students’ success has led to a continuation and expansion of the program.

“The success of Shawna and her peers resulted in UFV offering 30 seats this year for two ten-week sessions in the Trades Discovery class,” Lawson says. “It is a really amazing program.”

Her success also grabbed the attention of scholarship providers. She earned a handful, including the $2,500 Standing Tall award.

It will come in handy when she registers at UFV in an upcoming semester. For now, she’s planning her future, and figuring out how to make it all work financially.

“I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without Chuck Lawson and Ryan Pastorchik,” she says of her principal and teacher.

But it’s also her persistence that has kept her moving forward.

“I dropped out the first time when I was in Grade 7, then I tried to go back in Grade 8,” she says. “That didn’t work out. I only stayed for a few months.”

Making the decision to go back after all those dropped attempts has been a life changer, she says.

And that’s the case for many students who complete high school at alternate schools. Chilliwack school district offers a selection of programs for students who don’t see themselves fitting into a traditional classroom. They include CHANCE Shxwetetilthet, Continuing Education, Fraser Valley Distance Education and the Education Centre.

Ferguson managed to stay there for three years. The Education Centre programs are for secondary school students who want a flexible learning environment rich with supports both inside and outside of the classroom. The added supports are beyond what is normally offered in a mainstream school.

“If I had turned down Chuck’s offer, I wouldn’t have graduated,” she says. “I’d probably be still kinda lost and confused.”


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Organizers of the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival have decided to end the event after more than 20 years. / Bob Friesen File Photo
Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival cancelled – for good

Organizers say the event was so popular that too many people were attending to be sustainable

Owen Charpentier, 21, is charged with the Oct. 22, 2019 second-degree murder of Keith Baldwin in Chilliwack. (File)
Pre-trial dates set for Chilliwack man charged with Keith Baldwin’s murder

Owen Dale Charpentier accused in the fourth homicide of 2019 next in court June 2021

The 2020 Rotary Club of Chilliwack Book Sale is moving from Chilliwack Mall to Heritage Park to allow more room for physically-distanced shopping. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Rotary Book Sale moves from Chilliwack Mall to Heritage Park

The hugely-popular book sale is going ahead Oct. 25-31 with pandemic protocols in place

Massimo Rizzo (Penticton Vees, BCHL), middle, tries to out-maneuver two Team Canada East players during a preliminary game at the 2018 World Junior A Challenge. Team Canada West won the all-Canadian matchup 6-1.
Photo courtesy of Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images
Chilliwack Chiefs acquire Massimo Rizzo from Coquitlam Express

Chiefs hockey boss Brian Maloney has high expectations this season, and this trade is a sign of that

There have been several reports to the Chilliwack RCMP recently regarding a phone scam where the caller impersonates a local police officer and asks for money, they said on Oct. 19. 2020. (Miryam Leon/ Unsplash)
Chilliwack RCMP warn phone scammers are impersonating officers

RCMP officers would never solicit money or Bitcoin from someone, they assure the public

The RCMP helicopter. (File photo)
Suspect escapes after police pursuit through Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford

Police chase involved two stolen vehicles, including one taken in Mission

IIO Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Police watchdog concludes Mounties didn’t shoot Surrey teen at strip mall

IIO finds tragic death of teenager ‘not the result of any actions or inactions’ by the Surrey RCMP

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Emergency crews shut down White Rock’s Five Corners district on Feb. 19, 2020 after an altercation left an elderly man in critical condition. (File photo)
Trial dates set in White Rock manslaughter case

Proceedings against Ross Banner, 71, set for June 2021 in Surrey Provincial Court

The many faces of Daon Glasgow. (Photos: Surrey RCMP)
Glasgow found not guilty of trying to murder transit cop in Surrey

Transit Police Constable Josh Harms was shot Jan. 30, 2019 at Scott Road SkyTrain Station

Most Read