After 28 years, a long-held dream is coming true for a local woman - in a few days she will hold her master's degree in clinical psychology.
An advocate of life-long learning, Sue Perry has worked hard to achieve this spectacular goal. Many sacrifices in personal time and money were necessary to achieve her degree. For her, they were all worthwhile.
"You have to keep your eye on your goal. Don't worry about how you'll do it, just enjoy the process," Perry shared.
Sometimes she admitted that's been easier said than done.
By her reckoning her degree has cost about $40,000. She's been blessed with support from both her mom and dad, Donna and Art Perry, her children, Riley and Jesse, her partner, Glen McClughan, and her employer, First Nations Employment Society.
"Mom and Dad helped; they're the best grandparents ever. Glen has listened to my many meltdowns, and the kids have always been there for me," she related.
She began work on her master's degree in 2008. Few institutions in Canada offered the program she was interested in taking. The University of Calgary was the closest, so she chose their course of study.
Over the years Perry, in addition to writing numerous 20- to 25-page papers, has had to travel to Calgary twice each semester and stay in residence there along with her fellow students from across Canada. The course requirements were rigorous.
"It was such a huge learning curve. They would only allow me to take one class per semester. I had been used to taking four classes a year for the bachelor's and I thought [the master's] would be easy-peasy. It wasn't. I struggled with the papers; writing is not my strong suit. I had to learn the technology to study on line," she recalled.
Aside from the huge cost with going to Calgary, Perry enjoyed the interaction with her peers.
"It was crucial to have that face to face. I now have friends in New-foundland and Toronto," she said.
As the next step to complete her degree, she interned for eight months with Sunshine Coast Mental Health and Addictions (SCMHA), in addition to doing her regular job.
"They [SCMHA] were fabulous. I am so grateful to them," she said.
How Perry got to her degree is a classic story of perseverance.
When she graduated from high school in 1984, like many young people,Perry looked for training that would get her into the work force fairly quickly. Beginning at Capilano University (then Capilano College) and going on to Langara College, she earned a special education teacher's assistant certificate.
After struggling financially in the field for some time, she decided to go back to school. In the meantime life intervened, and Perry was soon the mother of two. She decided it was important to spend as much time as possible with her children. To do that and still earn a living, she waited tables until her daughter was 11.
At that point, Sunshine Coast Community Living hired Perry because of her past special education training. Over the years she became an employment counsellor too, a position that became increasingly difficult for her to hold without additional formal education.
She soon decided a bachelor's degree would help provide job security. And in 2006, she achieved that milestone. And now her master's is "in the mail."
What's next for this amazing woman?
She's not sure, but for now she's loving her freedom from studying and her job that provides training and employment for all Aboriginal people on the Coast. She also instructs part time at Capilano University in the personal planning and career exploration program. Perry finds working with folks at crossroads in their lives particularly satisfying.
"I tell them you can't finish if you don't start" - words she appears to live by.
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