My Life Story in a Nutshell

mom with daughter

I am the middle child of six children. My father was a mill worker and my Mom worked part-time whenever money got tight.

I was 18 when I had my daughter Teresa. My brother married his pregnant 15-year-old girlfriend on his 18th birthday. My Mom was married and having her first child at 18.

I wasn’t married  when I had my daughter and neither was my son when he had his first child at 18.

For my Master’s project I developed a handbook for parent’s of teen father’s. (If you check the link, the handbook is after all the research I had to do before writing the handbook).

Teen Pregnancy Runs in Families

        My son Tony with Kaylie

During my research I found out that teen pregnancy runs in families. Teen pregnancy is not quite the “accident” that we think it is.

Teens parents, both fathers and mothers, passively choose parenthood when they believe their options are limited.

The reason it runs in families is because each generation passes on their belief that life doesn’t have much to offer outside of low paying jobs and parenthood.

Teen parents don’t believe in a bright future for themselves, so they opt for early parenthood as a way to do something with their lives.

 Big Dreams Aren’t for Someone Like Me

I went through grade school and high school not excelling at anything. I was a “troubled youth,” by today’s standards. I had social anxiety and depression; not unlike many adolescents today.

Not being successful in school, I didn’t have any expectations for myself other than to get a job as a secretary, marry, and have kids. I secretly had big dreams, but I didn’t believe they were possible for someone like me.

Two months before I graduated, a teacher named Mrs. West, told me she thought I should go to college. She said she saw potential in me. Me?

I explained that I couldn’t go to college because I hadn’t taken any academic courses. “Only typing and office classes from you, Mrs. West.”

Anyone Can go to College

Me and my siblings

Mrs. West told me anyone can go to college and I didn’t need to have academic courses. I might need to upgrade some courses eventually, she said, but I could worry about that when the time came.

I don’t remember ever being as excited about my future as I was that summer waiting to go to college. I had big dreams of being a Social Worker or Counsellor.

 It takes Guidance to Realize your Dreams

It didn’t take me long to realize that I couldn’t become a counsellor or social worker at a community college. I would have to get a student loan and go away for two years to Vancouver or Victoria. For a 17 year old “troubled teen,” the thought was too overwhelming to even consider.

I accidentally got pregnant instead, and my dreams were put on hold.

Dreams on Back Burner

I had my daughter Teresa and studied Early Childhood Education instead. It definitely wasn’t my dream, but at least I could complete the schooling in one year at the community college. Five years later I had my son Tony. Life is good, but I’m not living the dream.


 Acts of Kindness

One day a parent in the preschool where I worked, Jennifer Checkley, took an interest in me and inquired about my future goals. I explained my dilemma and why I couldn’t really have any dreams.

Jennifer called me a few days later and told me she talked to some people and found out I could get a degree through distance education.  I had never heard of such a thing. This was before household computers and Internet.

Any mention of correspondence courses I ever saw was on the back of matchbook covers. But the program she was talking about was a Social Work Degree offered through the University of Victoria.

Me with Tony

This amazing act of kindness set me on a path that changed my life. I began taking courses in the Social Work program (later switched to psychology) and volunteered as a prerequisite to getting into the program. These changes led to me getting hired as coordinator of the Elizabeth Fry Victim Services Program where I worked for many years.

It took me in total, 20 years to complete that bachelor’s degree. I took courses when I could afford it and when I had the time and energy. My kids were grown when I finished my degree, and within a few years, with the support of my husband, I completed my Master’s degree.

Despite not doing well in grade school and high school, I graduated with my Master’s degree at the top of my class. Don’t ever assume that not doing well in school as a child determines someone’s success in University. There are many emotional factors contributing to why children don’t do well in school.

My Story has a Point

Kaylie’s dream was to be a mermaid – Grandma made it happen






So the moral of my story is twofold. First, we must give the message to children that they can realize their dreams. All children have a dream, until they lose it. If they don’t know how to realize their dreams, or don’t believe they’re good enough, they give up.

Secondly, never under-estimate the impact that a small act of kindness can have on a person. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to two women who don’t even know how much they helped me.

Thank you Mrs. West and Jennifer Checkley, where-ever you are.

If you have an experience you’d like to share, add a comment at the bottom of the page. I’d love to hear from you.

“To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Author: Jenny dereis

I am a counsellor at Walmsley Counselling Agency in Prince George, BC. I have a Master's Degree in Counselling Psychology from the University of Calgary and a certificate in Substance Misuse and a certificate in Working with Survivors of Sexual Abuse. I am currently working towards certification in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.

6 thoughts on “My Life Story in a Nutshell”

    1. Hi Sandee, you got me thinking more about acts of kindness and so I got on facebook and tracked down Jennifer Checkley to share with her how much she impacted me. It was great to find her. Isn’t facebook wonderful?

  1. l love this story Jennifer, truly inspiring. I have some similarities in my life story but never did follow my dreams out of fear. Sadly at 52 I still sit in a cubicle farm doing IT work watching precious days go by. I do, however, encourage my kids to follow their dreams and investigate the world around us.

    Thanks Jennifer!

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