SAINT JOHN – Three years ago, Jennifer Howe’s life looked very different than it does today.
Addicted to drugs and alcohol, she had no direction and no idea what she wanted to do with her life. She got clean, and then she got interested in nursing as a career.
“I never had a dream of being a nurse,” Howe said. “My whole life was alcohol and drugs. I grew up in foster care, my dad was an alcoholic, I spent time in a youth centre. I had an ex-boyfriend who told me I was nothing but a pill head drunk, and I labelled myself as a pill head drunk who wasn’t going anywhere.
“Now, I’m going to be a nurse.”
While at a recovery centre, she learned about financial support for post-secondary education. She looked into different college programs to see what sparked her interest and started thinking about nursing. She interviewed a few Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and decided to apply to the Saint John Campus of New Brunswick Community College (NBCC).
“And here I am,” she added. “It was pretty hard. Now it’s good.”
Howe recently received her diploma in Practical Nurse from NBCC Saint John Campus, the culmination of two years of hard work and perseverance. Attending college while in recovery was a challenge, but it’s one that Howe met head on.
“With school, it’s supposed to come first. But when you’re in recovery, recovery has to be first,” she noted. “This program consumes your life. There’s a lot of stress. I worked on myself a lot.
“It’s hard. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s worth it.”
Howe received support along the way from her recovery family, but also from her classmates at NBCC. In her first year of studies, she didn’t share her recovery story with other students. In her second year, she became comfortable enough to let her peers know some of what she was going through.
“They’ve helped me in ways they could never imagine,” she said. “Their humour and friendship has really helped me through the hard stuff.”
Howe has now completed her preceptorship and just accepted a job offer. She intends to work as a LPN for a few years and possibly continue her studies to become a Registered Nurse (RN).
Ultimately, she hopes to use her training to help others who are struggling as she struggled.
“I want to live and work in Nunavut, where they really struggle with mental health issues and addiction,” she said. “They need people who have been through this, and I want to help other people get to where I am now.”
With over 90 programs and six campuses across New Brunswick, New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) is a provincially recognized post-secondary institution renowned for producing skilled, knowledgeable college graduates. NBCC offers students full-time concentrated study periods in one- and two-year certificate and diploma programs. For more information, visit: www.nbcc.ca.