By Pierre-Yves McSween, business administration teacher at Cégep régional de Lanaudière in L’Assomption and business commentator broadcasting on 98.5 FM on Puisqu’il faut se lever and Montréal maintenant.
Edward arrived at CEGEP out of the blue. With his life course, seeing him in accounting and management at the Cégep regionale de Lanaudiere in L`Assomption was out of the ordinary. Statistically, he should never have been there! Why not? Because of a dysfunctional family, behavioural problems and learning difficulties. The probabilities of success for Edward in my classroom were slim to none. Yet, one beautiful fall morning, there he was.
Edward had talent, but in high school, for whatever reasons, he was unable to show it. At CEGEP, however, he was finally able to harness this talent and feel valued.
In three short years, I saw this teenager become a man. Community college was a chance for him to start over both socially and academically, see new horizons and finally find his way on a path not mapped out in advance with unexpected detours. Just the fact that Edward was in my classroom was already a lot for him. All he wanted was to complete his three-year technical course and find a well-paid job. University was out of the question. Yet, three years later with his DCS in hand, he was a university student.
I am pleased with the connection between the general and technical training in CEGEPs. Bridges exist whereby the choice of technical training leaves the door open to university. For Edward, CEGEP was not an end-all but a springboard allowing him to bounce back.
Every year, I encounter many “Edwards,” young people who initially put higher education on a terrifying and inaccessible pedestal. For them, CEGEP is exciting, a second chance, that does not appear on any performance statistic. That they decide to go on to university or not afterwards has no real importance. They chose to leap from the springboard to a place that had never seemed accessible to them before. They are living proof that CEGEP somehow represents an open passage to an ocean of possibilities.
In my department, we enjoy going from theory to building real projects. Why settle for the fictitious when one can analyze a local business? Why stay in the classroom when one can go out on the field? Why settle for exercises from a workbook when one can get hands-on learning which will serve the community? For example, every year in our region, one of my colleagues organizes an income tax clinic for the poor, where his students’ knowledge is put to good work. Edward took part in this clinic and came away with a sense of pride. He helped those who never had the chance to walk on the same springboard that he had.
CEGEP is a stage to redefine oneself, to question one’s convictions, a buffer zone to opt for something else. It is also a place relatively close to home, wherever you live. Let us not forget that Quebec is big, very big, and CEGEPS give access to higher education throughout its territory. They are also valorization engines of intellectual life for many municipalities. To care for higher education, one must taste it and make it accessible. I believe that in this sense, CEGEPs are well-positioned laboratories to accompany young people as they adapt to the reality of tomorrow. And the Quebec of today and tomorrow needs a multitude of Edwards.
Edward only needed a springboard to dive in. In his past, he was tiring himself out just trying to stay afloat. Now, he swims with speed. All young people are different, carrying their own life baggage, abilities and ambitions. To Charles, Amelia, Vincent, Audrey and others…I say, do like Edward and get on the springboard. You will jump farther than you planned at the start.
You are the reason why I continue to teach with such pleasure and satisfaction year after year.