Laurentia is a 59-year-old resident of Windsor County. She was born in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada to Dutch immigrant parents. School did not come easily to her. Today, she stands out as someone who speaks about her experiences with wonderful ease. She loves to read recreationally and is presently enjoying a saga about a pioneer woman. She reads a lot despite a diagnosis of Fuchs Dystrophy, a condition causing blurring in one of her eyes.
“I left school in the 10th grade,” Laurentia said. “I was getting up early, staying up late and staying in during recess to study. I worked with tutors. I was working harder than anyone else and, still, I was failing. I was so stressed that I got migraines. My father finally encouraged me to leave school saying, ‘It’s not worth getting sick.’”
Laurentia experienced a learning disability in a time when public schools were not mandated to make accommodations for such learners. She was also involved in a life-altering accident at age 20: she was hit by a truck while riding her bicycle. She worked—as a babysitter and a housekeeper—but these jobs were too physically taxing, given the significant back injury sustained in the crash. She eventually qualified for disability.
Laurentia wants readers to know she is a person of faith. As a person of faith, she feels she is not so “touched” by the world because of her disability. She’s able to connect with her church community and craft group. These activities enhance her quality of life.
“I came to VAL because I wanted to finish something,” Laurentia said. “I’ll have earned 8 of the 18 credits I’m required to finish 12th grade by December.”
Laurentia enrolled in an environmental science class, a collaboration between VAL, the Nature Museum and Muckross State Park. The class was designed by VAL teacher MJ Trask.
“The class was very interesting,” Laurentia said. “I loved going to the (state) park, smelling the air and seeing the beauty of the leaves and trees. I live with chronic pain and time in nature gave me an uplift.”
“Laurentia has been such an inspiration to me as a teacher,” said MJ Trask of VAL. “She has an incredible zest for learning and is always willing to go out of her comfort zone to learn new information. It has been a privilege to work with her.”
Laurentia, whose first language was Dutch, is learning Spanish and really enjoys it. VAL has showed her that she IS a capable student and she learns best in a 1:1, teacher: student configuration, something VAL’s Learning Center in Windsor can offer her.
“I am so much more comfortable as a student in a 1:1 learning situation,” Laurentia said. “I can ask the questions I want. VAL is better for me than being in a large classroom of students.”
What advice does Laurentia have for an adult thinking about finishing their high school diploma with VAL? “Go for it! You can go as fast or as slow as you need to go. The teachers are great. They bend over backwards to meet your needs, to meet you where you are. My teacher, MJ, lays out the landscape, the map you need to follow to graduate and she helps you build the roads and paths to achieve that goal. People should know it’s not as easy as you might think, but the finished product is far worth what it takes to get there!”