For Laurentia, high school was literally a headache. In the middle of tenth grade, she began suffering debilitating migraines that took a toll on her education. “I was trying ten times harder than anyone else and kept failing. Extra studying and tutors weren’t helping,” she explained. Despite her ongoing efforts, her father saw her struggling and suggested she drop out to tend to her health. That was where her formal education was paused.
Fast forward almost forty years to Laurentia attending her crafting group in Springfield. She noticed a lot of activity happening within the building and was informed that Vermont Adult Learning was moving in. Learning more about VAL, specifically the High School Completion Program, was just the spark she needed to start asking herself, “I wonder if I still could…”
With the encouragement of her husband Allan, she did. Laurentia reached out to VAL and her educational journey resumed full-throttle.
“It was a hard journey,” Laurentia shared. “It was a journey I didn’t think I could ever finish, but I gave it my all, 24/7. I lived, ate, and breathed school and my dear husband was my hero. He took care of the house, meals, and laundry, driving me everywhere I needed to go. Then I started meeting more teachers and individuals.”
When Laurentia went to make an appointment with VAL the first thing they did was give her tests to assess her skill level. Her math was at Level 1 and she needed to get up to Level 5, which was a rigorous process. VAL math teacher Jay Gagnon was determined to get her there. “Jay said ‘If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to teach you math’ and when I didn’t understand I would throw all my questions at him. I really thrived with him and am really, really grateful. All the teachers were great, but I think he’s the one who got me to work the hardest.”
“While there was certainly math learning that Laurentia had to accomplish, the most significant challenge Laurentia came to Vermont Adult Learning with was a lack of confidence around the topic,” Jay shared. “As many questions as Laurentia had for me, I turned five more back to her. Each of these exchanges ended with, ‘See? You do know!’”
As part of her high school completion requirements, Laurentia also had to earn Physical Education credits.
“The big thing was when I went to VAL, I believe I was 256 pounds. When MJ Trask, another of my VAL teachers, told me I had to get a PE credit I looked at her like…’Oh, yeah?’,” Laurentia recalled. “Thankfully she said it could be as simple as walking. Every day, I had to keep a journal of what happened during that walk. It was keeping me honest as an accountability tool because if I didn’t walk I couldn’t write, and I enjoyed the writing.” The relationship Laurentia developed with her walking practice led to her losing over 100lbs and raising over $420 for VAL through a self-directed walk-a-thon!
When her VAL graduation ceremony came, Laurentia delivered a speech and was very thankful for the opportunity to tell everyone that her success was a team effort. “I had my husband, friends, family, all the VAL teachers I worked with, and God behind it all.”
Since graduating, Laurentia has been focusing on caregiving. “In sociology, I had to volunteer and that’s what led me to Senior Solutions (Council on Aging for Southeastern Vermont). I now do respite for three people. I have been working at a memory cafe where patients are occupied to give caregivers time to meet together and am in the process of starting a new program to help give respite caregivers a break.”
When asked what she’d want people to know about VAL, Laurentia explained, “The teachers at VAL treat you as a whole person. Your body, your mind, and your soul. They use what is from you to teach you. For instance, I love art – drawing, photography, painting – so they used those things to teach me lessons. I also like to write, so I had essays where I could express myself and that really went well.”
Check out Laurentia’s essay My Schooling Experience to read about her educational journey in her own words!