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Student's inspiring essay wins award in writer contest

June 13, 2024 News Story
Liz Zebrasky

Kaakiyow Li Moond Likol Adult Learning Centre student, Liz Zebrasky, has earned the first prize in Adult Secondary Education Council’s (ASEC) Starr Writers contest for adult learners. 

Elizabeth Zebrasky was awarded first prize and an invitation to share her inspiring essay in the fall of 2024. Her essay details her incredible story as well as her return to school and experiences in adult education. 

In the summer of 2023, Liz’s worker approached her with the choice to attend school or find a job; that’s when she decided it was time to go back to school. 

Liz first registered for Kaakiyow in the fall of 2023. She remembers thinking, “When I started Adult Education, for the first four months, I was shy and quiet. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I felt like I didn't belong. I told myself, what’s the point? I’m an adult, why do I need to go back? There were some days I felt stupid. Everyday I put on a brave face, and I told myself, I'm going to do it, I can be smart and never give up. I wanted to prove that going back to school wasn’t as scary as I thought it was.”

Liz was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She came from a big family, 3 sisters and 4 brothers. She was raised in both Waywayseecappo and Winnipeg, Manitoba. Growing up on her reserve was hard. Her mom struggled with addictions, so her grandparents stepped in to raise her. Eventually, CFS apprehended her, and she lived in several homes before going back to live with her mother.

When it came to school, she struggled. She never wanted to go to school as a child. She says, “I hated school! Math and English were the worst. I faked being sick, I'd take off, or I'd hide. I really did not want to go because I'd get bullied, teased, and get into fights all the time.” By the time Liz was 14, she had moved between Winnipeg and her reserve eight times and had been to eight different schools. She finally decided to drop out of school in grade 8.

At 35 years old, she struggled with, and overcame, her own addictions. She has been sober for two years. She states, “Even though I’ve been to eight schools in my life and had a lot of other challenges, I'm glad I went back! Kaakiyow helped me become a better person. I’m able to be more open and talk more. I no longer hate Math and English. To be honest, I actually love going to school and my teachers, Christa Yeates and Monica Chochinov, are awesome, understanding, and very welcoming. I’m dreading the day when it’s time to graduate and I'll have to leave this school; I have changed so much.” 

“The most important reason I went back to school was for my kids and my family. At first, my kids didn’t think I understood what I was getting myself into but as I kept going, I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to show them that education is important and to never give up. I hope I made my kids and family proud of me. I’m proud to say school is the best choice because it doesn’t matter how old you are. It’s a great way to build up your self-esteem and confidence.” 

Kaakiyow Limond Likol is her ninth school and she will be graduating at the end of June. She says, “The coolest thing is that I’ll be the first one in my family to graduate ever.” After graduation, Liz plans to continue her education and is interested in helping professions - working with children or in health care. 

Her advice for future learners, “Sure, some days might be hard and don’t make sense but it’s important to keep pushing yourself anyway; everyday is a mystery. The best advice I have about going back to school is just do it! It can be scary or intimidating but trust me it's really not; it’s the best choice I've made.”

Kaakiyow li moond likol Adult Learning Centre is part of the Winnipeg Adult Education Centre. It is located inside Turtle Island Neighbourhood Centre at 510 King Street. It first opened its doors in 2008 as a way to provide educational opportunities for people in the North End and specifically the Lord Selkirk Park Neighborhood. Kaakiyow li moond likol Adult Learning Centre offers continuous enrollment and is free to all learners. 

The Starr Writers Contest was named for educator Jocelyn Starr, who passed away in November 2010. Jocelyn was one of the founding members of the Adult Secondary Education Council, and was a strong advocate and proponent of her students.

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