Darcell’s Story

Mar 23, 2018 | Client Spotlight, EPBC, Kamloops |

Darcell Lehmann has been working since she was 14 years old. She worked hard at job after job from clerical work to retail management, but felt like she was getting nowhere. “I was tired of working and living like this,” she said, “I had no sense of accomplishment. I needed a change.”

Darcell became the primary breadwinner for the family after her husband was diagnosed with AS, Ankylosing Spondylitis, a type of arthritis that affected his spine, causing his vertebrae to fuse together in 2010. The condition gave him constant headaches, back pain, and neck pain, and made it difficult for him bend over for long periods of time or even sit or stand. He had to quit his job as an aircraft machinist. They had to sell their house and move into their best friend’s house. Even with Darcell working every weekend and evening, there were times where they couldn’t afford to eat but for the support of their parents.

“I had to put money in the bank, food on the table…. I was now the main income for my family, and I couldn’t do it on minimum wage.”

Darell was treated poorly at work. She hated her job and dreaded going in every day, but she had no choice: “I had to put money in the bank, food on the table…. I was now the main income for my family, and I couldn’t do it on minimum wage.” She dreamt of going back to school.

Then a friend who worked for Open Door Group suggested that Darcell visit the WorkBC Centre and explore her options. She met with her friend at the WorkBC Centre and learned that if she met certain requirements and was willing to put in the research and time, she could be funded for school. They discussed Darcell’s situation and decided that she was a perfect fit for this program.

“I left feeling completely full of hope.”

“I left feeling completely full of hope. I went home that day hoping that this decision would work for my family. It wasn’t so much about me, but I wanted to be able to provide for my husband and daughter. They were my number one priorities.”

After months of research and extensive paperwork, Darcell identified Sprott Shaw College as the best choice for her. “This school was awesome. As soon as I walked in the front door, I was greeted with a smile and the administrative assistant knew my name. That was very impressive.” The entrance assessment was free, so she wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket. Their full time classes were only a half day which fit perfectly into her schedule as a wife and mother. The small campus also meant more one on one time with instructors, and “the best part of this school was that they helped you find a job after and lifetime upgrading!”

As she waited for her application to be processed, Darcell registered for school, did a campus tour, and completed the entrance assessment. She also obtained a student loan so that she can focus on her education. It was the first time she didn’t have to worry about money in a long time.

“I was finally going back to school after almost 20 years of being out of high school. I was over the moon!”

Finally, she got the call she was waiting for. She was in. Her funding application had been approved. “I was finally going back to school after almost 20 years of being out of high school. I was over the moon!”

Darcell started her program in October 2016. She graduated in May 2017.

While she found some of the classes difficult, the instructors where there to provide the help she needed. She studied every day. Eventually, she completed a practicum at Sprott Shaw College that led to a full time position as a Financial Administrator at the college. In July she will have been there for a year.

“I am proud of where I am and the work it took to get here. No one fought for me, I did it all on my own.”

“I am still here and I am happy. I look forward to my job every day… I have never been this happy at a company before.” While things can “get rocky” because she there is something new to learn every day, Darcell says there is a great support system between her, the director, admissions officer and the rest of the staff. “I can count on any one of them to help.”

Darcell finally has the career she needs with the benefits and pay that her family depends on. But she didn’t just do it for her family; it was also something that she needed to do for herself. Looking back, Darcell says graduating from college in May has been the biggest accomplishment in her life.

“I am proud of where I am and the work it took to get here. No one fought for me, I did it all on my own.”