Working towards a dream

Live Your Dream award winner Tanya Karreman is recognized for her return to university to support her young children and to help others.

Tanya Karreman and her twins Levi and Danae (age 10) settle in for a game of Blokus. A single mother

Tanya Karreman and her twins Levi and Danae (age 10) settle in for a game of Blokus. A single mother

As any university student knows, one hour of lecture time equates to three hours of study time.

Mature student Tanya Karreman, who is also a single, working mother, has nine hours of lecture time per week.

And she crams those 27 hours of study time into her schedule at every possible opportunity, because she’s pursuing her dream career.

“When my marriage fell apart six and a half years ago, I was left to care for four young children without any income or support,” Tanya said, seated in her living room while her 10-year old twins Levi and Danae played down the hall.

The twins were three when the marriage ended. Their older brothers Joel and Micah were seven and nine.

Educated as a teacher in Switzerland, Tanya had moved to Canada 18 years ago. But she only worked on a casual, part-time basis throughout the duration of her marriage, which wouldn’t nearly be sufficient as the primary source of income.

“Those first few months… it was terrifying,” she said.

Fortunately, she had a great support network of family and friends to reach out to. “They stopped me from sinking completely, allowing me to find my bearings,” she said with gratitude.

But the bills and responsibilities continued to stack up.

Tanya looked for work wherever she could, taking on odd jobs in pre-schools, non-profits, from home, even in an eyelash lounge. She tried anything that would still allow her to be there for her kids.

Desperate to find a stable solution, she made ongoing attempts to get back into teaching, but getting her Swiss credentials recognized was a daunting, discouraging and ultimately, insurmountable task.

Going back to university was the best, perhaps the only option she had.

It would mean relying heavily on student loans and looking for grants wherever she could, but it was something she had to do, for her family and for herself.

“And from everything we’ve been through, I realized that my heart was shifting,” Tanya explained. Rather than standing at the front of a classroom teaching a large group, her passion was drawn more toward counselling kids who are struggling, one-on-one.

She discovered the Child and Youth Care program at UFV. Her excitement grew exponentially as she read about the courses, professors, and the potential career paths.

By September of 2014, she was in the classroom.

She quickly realized that the professional theory and practical tools that she’s learning about will not only be applicable to her future career as a child and youth worker, but to the current struggles within her own family.

Managing her academic schedule with her myriad of family obligations continues to be the most challenging part.

“But my priority has always been to make sure that my kids have normal, healthy lives,” Tanya stressed.

In addition to quality time with friends and extended family, she’s been able to make sure her kids can participate in sports and extra-curricular activities by applying for programs like JumpStart.

“The support is out there, you just have to be willing to go get it.”

And when Tanya came across an ad for the Chilliwack Soroptimist Club Live Your Dream Award, she knew she should apply. The $2,500 award is given to a woman in need who is financially responsible for her dependents, and pursuing further education.

Three weeks ago, Tanya found out that she had won.

“I was thrilled,” she said. “It’s such a blessing to have a cash award, it’s huge.” It’ll allow her to pay off two semesters of tuition and books.

“But more than that, it’s validating and affirming,” she emphasized. “All the hard work, all that time slugging it out… sometimes it feels like nobody cares.”

“Now I’m being recognized and commended. I feel so honoured.”

Although she doesn’t expect her children to fully understand her efforts and resilience at this point in their lives, she hopes that one day they’ll look back and be proud.

After all, her hard work will soon be making a difference in the field, as she utilizes her wealth of experiences (and the knowledge and empathy generated from them) to help others overcome their own challenges.

She graduates with her Bachelor’s degree in 2017, and she’s already thinking about her Master’s.

Tanya will be recognized at a celebratory ceremony on April 13 at City Hall, together with Chilliwack’s Woman of the Year. The ceremony begins at 6:30 p.m.

Nominations for Woman of the Year close March 1. Learn more at

Related stories:

Live Your Dream 2015Soroptimist Club Winners 2013