Balancing responsibilities like student loans and parenting while being a mature student were sacrifices Rodrigue made to achieve her career goals.

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Choosing a new career path as a mature student often presents challenges and requires determination.

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Just ask Andrea Rodrigue, a single mother of two who has overcome many obstacles to graduate from Saskatchewan Polytechnic this year. Holding a 93-per-cent average in the youth care worker certificate program is just one of her many accomplishments.

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“After doing some Google searching and listening to my passions, I was able to discover a program that I believe was the best fit for me and my kids,” explained Rodrigue, who spent nearly 20 years working in cosmetology.

“As many say, hairdressers are like counsellors, we are very trustworthy and do our best to make clients feel heard and look their best. The youth care worker seemed like a natural transition and was a great fit for my new career aspirations.”

With a goal to better the lives of herself and her children after coming out of a troubled marriage, Rodrigue set to work to pursue this goal.

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Housing was one of the challenges Rodrigue faced when deciding to enrol at Sask Polytech. She lived in her van the first week of school and stayed in a hotel before she found a home for her family.

Balancing responsibilities like student loans and parenting while being a mature student were sacrifices Rodrigue knew she would have to make to achieve her career goals.

“My kids have been my biggest fans. Although I am not sure if they fully understand,” she said. “I know what I am doing will pay off for our future. I have plans to continue to further my education. I hope to complete Year 2 for the youth care worker diploma.”

Rodrigue wants to make a positive impact on mental health and trauma survivors, not only for youth but also for anyone who struggles. She hopes to be established in the industry to help find a voice for those who don’t have one.

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Rodrigue expressed how grateful she is for the services available at Sask Polytech to help her succeed, including counselling services when she was feeling overwhelmed and learning services to help her understand some new technologies.

“Sask Polytech has great faculty and staff that are understanding and willing to help,” Rodrigue said. “For anyone attending campus, they should be utilizing these resources. I will be completely honest: I didn’t even know what a PDF was. So much has changed. But with the help of these services, I was caught up right away.”

According to Cathy Deneiko, acting head of Sask Polytech’s disability support worker and youth care worker programs, “The youth care worker program is a demanding course that leads students down a path of self-discovery that will help them be the best support they can be to young people. Andrea demonstrated the personal attributes we look for in a student. She has openness for learning, passion for working with youth, and kindness that extends to those around them. It was an absolute honour to have been a part of this learning journey with Andrea. We wish her the best of luck in her future!”

Today, Rodrigue holds a youth care worker certificate from the Saskatoon campus. The challenges and sacrifices were all worth it. When asked what advice she would give to a single mother wanting to restart, Rodrigue says, “In life, there will always be easy and hard times. Be aware of what you are capable of and what’s best for you. If you are passionate about something, don’t let it stop you — go for it.”

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