Paula Tuckanow’s advice for potential students is, “Age isn’t a limit.”
Paula was 16-years-old when she dropped out of high school.
At the age of 25, she went back to Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology (SIIT) to complete grade 10. Then, she went to Parkland Regional College in Fort Qu’Appelle to finish grade 11. Finally, she took the GED test twice to get her grade twelve diploma at age 27.
With her grade 12 diploma in hand, Paula got a job at a pig barn about 30 kilometres from home to support her family. She worked long hours of hard physical labour, managing over 5,000 pigs for $8.75/hour.
After every shift, she would go home exhausted to take care of her children. On Paula’s days off, she worked part-time at the Okanese Daycare.
When the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (SIFC) and Star Blanket Cree Nation set up a pilot program to offer the Indian Social Work program in her community, Paula jumped at the opportunity, even though she had just turned 29.
“I didn’t want to shovel shit for the rest of my life,” Paula says. She adds that she always wanted to work with young people and be a positive role model.
Paula took two years of the Indigenous Social Work program.
“For the first year I sat in class thinking, ‘What am I doing here?’” remembers Paula. “‘I’m not capable of furthering my education.’”
But, thanks to the support her coordinator, Sherry Thompson, her peers, and family Paula kept going.
Paula finished the last two years of her Bachelor of Indian Social Work (BISW) on the Regina campus.
She spent 12 years working as a probation officer in Fort Qu’Appelle and is currently a Youth Community Worker for the Ministry of Justice in Regina.
“When I hear people, family, friends, young adults, who do not have their grade 12 and who talk about how they want to further their education, I encourage them to go back to school,” says Paula.
“I often hear them say, ‘But, I am too old,’” says Paula. “I disagree and tell them, education does not have an age limit. No one is ever too old to receive an education. Education and learning is a lifelong process.”