Conestoga news

January 3, 2024 7:10 PM

Academic upgrading program gives adults tools needed to achieve goals

Conestoga’s free Academic Upgrading (AU) program helps potential students meet admission requirements and develop skills to support post-secondary studies or employment.

Nazir Mustafa enrolled in Conestoga’s free Academic Upgrading program to help reach his goal of becoming a respiratory therapist.

The program is intended for people who don’t have a secondary school diploma, need to improve grades for entrance into college or apprenticeship programs, or who completed high school some time ago and need to refresh skills.

Flexibility is at the foundation of the program, starting with a schedule that allows individuals to learn at their own pace in an adult atmosphere. Classes run in Brantford, Cambridge - Downtown, Guelph, Stratford and Waterloo with both self-directed and teacher-led options available. Participants focus on subjects relevant to their goals, including math, communications (English), biology, chemistry and computers.

Academic upgrading was the “turning point” in Nazir Mustafa’s life, giving him the boost to his grades and skills to get him on the way to reach his goal of becoming a respiratory therapist.

He was a doctor in his home country of India, but efforts to qualify for practising here in Canada had to be put aside when his wife got cancer and Mustafa became her full-time caregiver as well as looking after their three young children, including a son with special needs. After a years-long battle with cancer, Mustafa’s wife passed away and he became a single parent who needed to find stable employment that allowed work-life balance.

Mustafa was feeling defeated and unsure where to turn when staff and faculty in the Academic Upgrading program offered him guidance and support.

“It is such a wonderful program,” he said. “They provide you with the tools to succeed.”

He turned to academic upgrading when his first application to Conestoga’s respiratory therapist program was denied, starting with chemistry and later adding English to boost his grades. When he was waitlisted on the second try, Mustafa was undeterred and returned for more upgrading with biology and math.

Finally, the third application was a success and Mustafa started the two-year program in September 2022. “The first thing I did was thank all my faculty from AU,” he said. “Conestoga is my second home and the faculty there are my family.”

Mustafa’s story is a powerful example of how the program can enable students to transform setbacks into opportunities for growth, said Karen Morgan-Bowyer, chair of Workforce Development and Academic Upgrading. She applauded Mustafa’s perseverance and pointed to how the program can help people reach their goals.

“Nazir’s story serves as a powerful example of how the Academic Upgrading program provides a foundation for success. It illustrates the AU team’s commitment to empowering students to turn setbacks into opportunities for growth and, ultimately, to achieve their goals,” Morgan-Bowyer said. “Nazir’s accomplishment resonates as an inspiration to the entire AU department, showcasing the potential for transformation within each student.”

The Employment Ontario program is funded in part by the provincial and federal governments. Students may qualify for transportation subsidies and assistance with child-care costs needed to attend. Admission requirements include 19 years of age or older, Ontario resident, and documentation of completed Canadian Benchmark level (CLB) 7 or higher if English is not a first language.

Conestoga's School of Workforce Development, Continuing Education & Online Learning works with industry to meet the needs of the local region and beyond. The college offers a full range of courses as well as part-time and full-time programming, including academic upgrading for college, part-time programs, and full-time and graduate certificates. Courses and programs include online, hybrid and traditional classroom delivery. Almost 55 per cent of the local adult population have participated in Conestoga's education and training opportunities, and the college is dedicated to meeting the needs of the workforce to allow students to reach their career goals.