The goal is to increase the women’s financial independence and, as a result, the quality of life for their children.
Newcomer moms aged 19 years and older can apply for the free program, which is delivered by the Immigrant Women’s Centre (IWC) at its Main Street location. Students in the program come from countries as diverse as Iran, China and Mexico.
Yujung Kwon is one of the moms. She arrived in Canada three years ago from Korea with an electrical engineering degree but could only find part-time work in a Korean restaurant. “I didn’t really learn English there,” she says. “In this program you learn everything in a short time. The teachers are excellent. I want to pass the test and then go to college.”
“These are women who want to work,” says Ines Rios, executive director of the IWC. “Most are educated but they don’t have Canadian credentials. Some are from war-torn areas of the world. Some are supporting their families alone because their marriages ended or they left abusive relationships. They all have children.”
Back to School Moms is the only high school completion program in Hamilton that offers onsite childcare, which Ines says is a critical need for newcomer mothers.
Supported by HCF’s Edith H. Turner Foundation Fund and Women 4 Change, the pilot year will have two separate 26-week sessions, each with 325 hours of classroom time—enough for most women to sit the General Education Development (GED) exam with confidence. Training follows the standard GED preparation textbook. Two certified teachers provide hands-on support, but the women also help each other. “We can give back to each other,” says Yujung.
“Certified teachers are key to a high quality program,” says Ines. “We think this program will be vital, not only to the women, but to the economy of Hamilton.”
Excerpt from 2015 Annual Report