Back from the brink: Going back to school
pays off, believe me.
Living an unfocused life as a Grade 10 drop-out in
Sudbury, Ontario, Andrea Paquette was initially happy to leave the
structure of classrooms and homework behind. Her crowd, by her own
admission, was destructive, and when I started seeing a lot
of my friends getting in trouble with the law and the girls getting
pregnant I thought I can do better than this.
has indeed done better. This week she graduates from UVic with a
double major in political science and womens studies, is working
as a research officer with the provincial government and has applied
to the school of public administration to complete her masters
She was only 16 when she came to Vancouver Island to
live briefly with her mother. Paquette enrolled in high school in
Campbell River, worked part-time, received some government assistance
to room with three others and started pulling down good marksgood
enough to join the scholarship club at CARIHI Secondary School.
There was a counsellor there who went to bat
for me. Everybody thinks when you drop out of high school youre
done. But going back to school pays off, believe me.
Attending university with several scholarships, Paquette
was selected by the political science department to participate
in its co-op option. Im definitely an advocate for the
program. An eight-month work term in government put everything Id
been learning in perspective and thats when I started to get
While impressed with several of her professors, she
singles out Dr. Warren Magnussen for praise. Hes so
approachable. He gets your mind into an analytical modethinking
without crutchesso that youre able to contribute your
knowledge and perspective, not regurgitating someone elses
Magnussen returns the praise. Shes a very
determined young woman who came to university with skills that needed
to be developed. But she was very committed and I saw dramatic improvement.
Andrea worked very hard and didnt shy away from challenge.
Paquettes interest in Magnussens third-year
urban politics course, requiring students to attend council meetings,
spread beyond coursework. Shes assisting on the Esquimalt
mayoralty campaign of Connie McCann and is considering a political
Right now Im interested in carving out
a career in the government so I can learn about how the various
departments are linked and how they operate, but in the long-term
I want to get into the political side of things, she says.
Life takes you on a path, adds Paquette,
clearly delighted with the one shes taken, and you just
have to go with it.
(Joy Poliquin photo)