It is important to the staff at the Good Learning Anywhere project that we make sure that we recognize and celebrate our learners that help make this project such a success. One such learner is Lennie Spence from Webequie First Nation. Back in January I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to start working on a new project with the Matawa First Nations to prepare learners whose goal is to get their GED. These learners meet 4 nights a week for 2 hours each night, so it is quite the dedicated group. This is where I had the pleasure of meeting Lennie.

Usually, when we choose a Learner of the Month, one of the staff writes up an article describing all of the learner’s amazing qualities and their journey with education. It would be very easy for me to write about what a terrific learner Lennie is, how dedicated he is, how enthusiastic he is, how supportive he is of the other learners in the class, and so on. However, in one of our first classes together, Lennie shared with me that one of his goals is to be a writer, so I presented him with the challenge of writing his own Learner of the Month article. Needless to say, Lennie rose to the occasion and wrote a moving and inspiring piece that beautifully expresses his decision to pursue his education. Congratulations, Lennie!

Lennie and his daughter, Liarah

My Learner of the Month Article

by Lennie Spence 

I am deeply honoured and thrilled to be named the ‘Learner of the Month’. And before I get started with my story I’d like to thank the ‘Sioux Hudson Literacy’ for giving me this opportunity to be here and try to obtain my GED and also a special thanks goes out to my fellow students for being here as well for they too are trying to obtain their GED.

When I made my decision to apply for the GED program I had two reasons in mind. First, I now have a beautiful baby girl to support full-time and secondly, I had a brother that took his own life a few years ago that made me open my eyes that through education I can change my life around.

Over the years I was involved in all kinds of odd and seasonal jobs such as firefighting, line cutting, tree planting, sewage plant helper and numerous part-time jobs. When my daughter was born, I wondered, how am I going to support her with these kinds of jobs? I took two things into consideration; the high cost of living in the north and the scarcity of these part-time jobs.

Having a part-time job sometimes would take its toll on me. Bills would start to pile up and in most cases I barely had enough money left over to buy groceries for myself. At times it was really frustrating, although I had the opportunity to complete my education at an earlier age. I was one of the many who made that unwise decision to drop out of high school and this was my greatest regret in the years that followed.

My late brother went through the same thing too, but he took a different path to get back on track. He was leading a life of self-destruction, he was drinking a lot on the reserve and getting into all kinds of trouble and as I recall, some people said that he will never make out of this reserve and that he’ll probably end up in jail for good. But I, on the hand, had always believed that my brother was a very intelligent person and even his peers used to tell me how bright he was.

I think it was around 1996 that he finally decided to go back to school because he knew that it was hopeless to live on the reserve due to the lack of opportunities. He first sifted through mail correspondence courses and then went down the local Educational center to see if there was anything that appealed to him. Then entered another brother who just happened to be the Chief of the community at the time suggested that he just leave the community to attend college in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

After a few years of attending college in Thunder Bay he graduated with a diploma in business management and then shortly afterwards he continued onto Lakehead University where he graduated with a degree in Political Science. And right after Lakehead, he enrolled in a law school in Toronto, Ontario where he got accepted but never got around securing funding for it.

Sadly, after going through some personal problems and the pressures of city life he took his own life in June of 2004. One thing I learned from what he went through is that no matter what we go through we can all still be successful in obtaining our goals through hard work and a good education.

My goal is to continue in my quest for a good education for a full-time job.

Thank you very much.

Lennie Spence

Author: stephmpark

7 Responses to "Learner of the Month – Lennie’s Story"

  1. louise@siouxhudsonliteracy.com'
    Louise L Posted on May 20, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Wow! What a terrific piece! This should be read by all ‘would be’, ‘should be’ and ‘could be’ adults who don’t have their Grade 12. Thanks for motivating us all!

  2. warren@siouxhudsonliteracy.com'
    Warren Posted on May 20, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    This is an incredible story!

    Many people have no idea how a voice at the end of a computer can make a difference is someone’s life.

    I have never shared this with anyone but I once had an onsite coordinator pull me aside at a conference to thank me for my work. I thought she was just being polite and friendly until she said, “You saved his life.” I literally froze up and gave her a hug.

    I will never forget that moment. And I think this story goes beyond that. Steph is also helping to make a better life for Lennie’s daughter. She may never know who Steph is but that’s ok!

    Well done!

    Warren

  3. sandra@siouxhudsonliteracy.com'
    Sandra Posted on May 21, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Thank you Steph and and a big thank you most of all to you, Lennie. This is a powerful story, one that needed to be shared, like Louise said.

    Warren: One of the limitations of what we do is that we don’t know what is going on on the other end of that screen. We DON’T know what impact we are having most of the time, though we keep communication lines open. That’s why things like our Creative Writing, Blogging, and Self Direction/Self Management classes are important. They’re not Fractions or Canadian Government courses, or have anything direct to do with GED upgrading, but they matter just as much. It is our responsibility to do everything possible so that these adults have a chance to tell the world their story.

    I’ll get off my soapbox now. It’s just important that we keep projects like this alive and kicking. The stories that have been told since we started Learner of the Month are powerful for us practitioners, but also just as important for the adults who are on the same path to making a better life for themselves and their cute little daughters;)

    Thank you Lennie

  4. linda@siouxhudsonliteracy.com'
    Linda Posted on May 24, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Fantastic – Lennie and Steph – you are both amazing! Keep up the great work!

  5. mtuesday@hotmail.com'
    Martin C. Tuesday Posted on May 31, 2011 at 10:23 am

    I really enjoyed your story Lennie and real happy for you that your lttle girl has a father like you and that your wife has a wonderful husband. Take care and keep up the good work. Kici Miigwec!, niin Obaabikawinni

  6. tinahiltz@gmail.com'
    Tina Posted on November 21, 2012 at 12:13 am

    I am so glad to hear that you are on the right track, Lennie, and thank you so much for sharing your story! All the best in the future! Tina Hiltz – another on-line learner

  7. idalhilson@gmail.com'
    Ida Posted on March 10, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    I Just want to say I love writing stories and sharing them and I am working a on creating a course when learners
    speak I am hoping to get help with it sometime soon
    Ida