CORNER BROOK They came from two different backgrounds but Varrick Hammond and Daniel Ricketts have a lot in common.
Both left school when they completed Grade 6 and now, well into adulthood, both are working towards obtaining their high school diplomas.
Hammond and Ricketts are students in the Learning Centre’s adult basic education (ABE) Level 1 program. The centre is run by the Employment Preparation Centre.
Hammond, 57, grew up in Corner Brook and recalls the transition from Grade 6 to Grade 7 as being difficult.
“Back then it was a big turning point,” he said going from having one teacher to several.
“It was a whole new ball game.”
He said a new math program was introduced at the beginning of Grade 7 and one night at Broadway School the teacher kept the students there till 8 p.m. trying to figure out a problem.
For Hammond “that was it,” and he never went back.
“Back then in Newfoundland you were lucky to have dinner on your table let alone education.”
Despite a lack of higher education Hammond went on to have a successful career.
“I was one of the lucky ones,” he said.
“But then again when we were growing up you learned by your knocks.”
He worked as a floral designer at Humber Nurseries for a number of years before heading to Ontario 31 years ago. In Ontario he would run his own floral shop and worked as a wedding consultant. He also got into interior design.
He returned to Corner Brook two years ago after his mother had a stroke and decided to stay.
He entered the ABE program a year ago to further his education.
“It was a time of life that I could do it, so I decided to do it.”
Students in the program work at their own pace under the guidance of an instructor.
“The quicker your learn, the quicker you’re out,” said Hammond.
He’ll finish Level 1 in June and then plans to go on to Level 2 and 3 at College of the North Atlantic.
And he doesn’t plan on stopping with his high school diploma.
“I want to go into interior design. I want to get a certificate for that.
“I can go in and do any room, but you want that diploma, too.”
Ricketts, 46, just started the Level 1 program but he also has plans for after he completes Level 3.
The Burgeo native wants to take a welding course.
Ricketts said he left school after Grade 6 because “I just didn’t want to be there.”
Like many young boys in a small community, he went to work in the fish plant.
“In them years everything was booming. They’d get anybody they could take. You didn’t need no education.”
He worked in the plant until it closed in 1990 and after that did odd jobs, whatever he could find.
Ricketts moved to Corner Brook about three years ago with his wife and two sons.
His wife, who completed the ABE program in Stephenville, did a personal care attendant course and now works in the city.
Ricketts also tried to get into the Stephenville program, but a problem with employment insurance meant he didn’t qualify.
He’s been working part time as a janitor at Herald Towers and recently decided it was time to do something else and applied at the Learning Centre.
“I said, ‘That’s it, I’m going.’”
For Ricketts getting an education means “you’ve got a chance of getting somewhere.”
This past week was recognized by the province as International Adult Learners Week.