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Perseverance pays off

By Geoff Ash

Joyce Mullins dropped out of high school in Grade 10, left home at 16 and got pregnant at 17.

On May 31, however, she will walk across the stage at Memorial's spring convocation ceremony to receive her bachelor of social work degree. Her inspiration, eight-year-old Isabella, will be cheering her on.

"I did it for her," said Ms. Mullins. "I could have scraped by forever, but I wanted to give her a better life than that, so I decided a few hard years would be worth it in the end."

The hard road
"There was a whole month where I sat outside the Registrar's Office every day and considered dropping out," she said.

For Ms. Mullins, the problem was not the workload or the dedication, but the time she had to spend away from her daughter.

"She would get really upset when I had to leave, but I just had to keep telling myself that she was okay and it was going to be better in the long run."

Some relief came with the discovery of the Student Work and Service Program (SWASP) program at Memorial's Career Development and Experiential Learning (CDEL). Ms. Mullins completed two semesters in the SWASP program, which provides on-campus employment opportunities for student parents.

"I didn't need to work off-campus anymore, so even the time I saved travelling to and from work was amazing. And I could work around my class schedule so I didn't have to take any extra time in the evenings or weekends."

The social work program at Memorial incorporates two experiential field placements. Through these and her on-campus work experience, Ms. Mullins says she learned more than she could have ever expected – and sometimes did not realize it.

"My first internship was with CDEL, and I had a lot of reservations about it – I didn't know if it was applicable. But you have to be open to how it can be valid, and sometimes you don't even realize it is until afterward. Transferrable skills are really what employers are looking for, and those are the most important things you learn in these types of experiential programs."

Now that she has made it, Ms. Mullins is preparing for the next phase, hoping to land a position with a local non-profit organization –­­­ but she is open to other opportunities as well.