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Writing from the Heart

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks

Learning For All Ages at the Canucks Family Education Centre.

Learning does not begin or end at any particular age, but is a lifelong process that is critical for success in all aspects of life. The Canucks Family Education Centre (CFEC) proudly supports and encourages intergenerational learning within a variety of its many programs, looking to improve and assist in educational experiences at any and all stages of life. CFEC, in partnership with the Hastings Education Centre, operates Writing from the Heart, a program dedicated to teach and improve literacy and writing skills, while also assisting participants in obtaining grade 12 course credits to further their education.

Writing from the Heart student and mother of three, Caroline Antoine has been a student in the program from the beginning, enjoying the unique take on writing that the class presents.

“My writing is so much better now,” she explains. “I just enjoy the class and hearing the stories that everyone writes. Everyone is at a different level in this class - some are awesome writers, some are working to improve their writing and trying to learn how to write. It’s a really good comfort zone.”

While Caroline stressed the comfort level within the class, there is one participant in particular who bears a special relationship her: Caroline’s daughter, Trisha (age 18), who is grateful for a positive relationship with her mother. Both mother and daughter are working together to complete their respective grade 12 education and look forward to being involved in post-secondary education in the near future. Supporting with grade 12 completion and encouraging post-secondary education is one of the main priorities of the Canucks Family Education Centre, particularly because it is centred in one of Canada’s poorest neighbourhoods (Vancouver’s east side) where the high school drop-out rate is extremely high and where residents face numerous socio-economic challenges.

“My education is really important to me,” says Trisha. “My [education] has given me a lot of experience with lots of things and I really like going to classes with my mom.”

In addition to Trisha participating in Writing from the Heart, she also works as a child-minder for CFEC’s Britannia StrongStart and Partners In Education programs under CFEC Director Jean Rasmussen. Caroline’s two other daughters, Karalee (9 years old) and Alecsus (11 months old) are also progressing well with their education with the support of CFEC. Karalee attends classes at Grandview Elementary school and is keeping busy with extracurricular activities, including karate and drama, and baby Alecsus is enrolled and active in CFEC’s StrongStart program. Caroline’s close-knit family exemplifies CFEC’s dedication and belief in providing opportunities for multigenerational learning and contributing to the development of strong literacy skills within the family.

“Usually families have all different schedules and you don’t get time to sit down and actually talk or know what’s going on because everyone is so busy. CFEC helps strengthen relationships within the family and it keeps everyone together to support one another as they focus on their education,” explains Caroline.

CFEC students can come to expect a unique learning experience in a course such as Writing from the Heart. As Jean Rasmussen notes, “A lot of our students were reluctant to return to school to finish their high school diploma. They didn’t want to go back into the same school environment that for many was an uncomfortable situation and didn’t meet their needs at the time, so they dropped out. When we (CFEC) developed this partnership with Hastings, we decided to offer the writing course in one of CFEC’s classrooms, a room that was familiar to many of the current participants and to also have a Vancouver School Board certified teacher teach it so the course would count towards high school graduation. The CFEC classroom is relaxed and comfortable. In addition to the teaching, we provide each participant with a nutritious breakfast so they start their day off fuelled for learning.”

Adult Educator with the Vancouver School Board, Lorrie Miller works out of the Hastings Education Centre as the lead facilitator for the Writing from the Heart course, and encourages students to find their voice through writing and becoming comfortable in sharing their stories.

“The primary goal for these students is for them to feel that they can dig into their own stories and write them down and also share them with others – what writing from the heart is all about,” explains Miller. “Additional goals include fostering the love of writing and reading, understanding the tools of creative work, learning the art of kind yet honest critique, and the sharing or publishing of written work.”

The course has the flexibility to appeal to a wide range of participants, and with her position as an Adult Educator, Miller gets to see first-hand the variety of backgrounds and needs that participating students carry with them.

“From students working towards a grade twelve diploma to students who have already graduated, but who want to upgrade their creative writing skills, this is a place where these learners support one another in telling their stories.”

Caroline’s family perfectly exemplifies intergenerational learning at its finest. Being able to see the family exceed through various obstacles and overcome them together in the pursuit of academic success is truly inspirational and brings hope to other families in similar situations as well. Having a solid education is growing more important by the day and with organizations like CFEC there to support the families that participate in its programs, there is little in the way of achieving their goals and improving their overall educational and life experiences.

For more information about the Canucks Family Education Centre, please go to


Author: Jessica Prasad

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