High school education can open doors for jobs, school and training. Improving skills through education helps in everyday life and sets a good example for friends and family members. For adults, the idea of going back to school can be overwhelming. People who have been out of school for a short (or long) time may need a little extra support to help them along their way.

Catholic Family Service’s Never Too Late program offers that support, and this year the program is celebrating an important milestone. In August, we wrapped up a three-year project to expand the program.

We’re incredibly grateful for funding from The Calgary Foundation Community Grants Program, which made it possible for us to take our learning from Never Too Late Bowness—where the program has run for years—and expand it to a second site in the Greater Forest Lawn Area.

Beginning in February 2017, the added Never Too Late site allowed us to serve the communities of Forest Lawn, Forest Heights, Penbrooke Meadows, Southview, Dover, Erin Woods, Radisson Heights, and Albert Park. We were also able to form new partnerships and community connections that have been supportive in helping our clients achieve their dreams.

Like any new initiative, it took some time to get things set up, and we found there were adjustments needed to ensure that Never Too Late fit in with the local culture of the Greater Forest Lawn area. During the three-year expansion project, 163 students registered for the program held at Father Lacombe High School. As of August 30 of this year, 91 of those students wrote the GED exams, and we are pleased to share that 66 of them passed all five tests and graduated!

During Never Too Late, program coordinators came alongside students to support them in addressing barriers that arose during their time in the program. This included providing access to counselling, food bank referrals, problem-solving regarding housing, and a host of other information/referral activities to reduce barriers. Students affirmed that this continuum of wrap-around service allowed them to continue to participate in Never Too Late despite the challenges they faced. Through the persistent encouragement of program staff, volunteer tutors, and fellow learners, students developed the academic and personal confidence needed to attain their goals. You can read more about the Never Too Late program here: www.cfs-ab.org/what-we-do/success-in-school/never-too-late-program/

The support from The Calgary Foundation augmented funding from United Way, who has been behind Never Too Late from its inception. With the expanded program showing the same great results as Never Too Late in Bowness, Calgary Learns, another local funder, has invested in the program, allowing us to continue operating in the Greater Forest Lawn Area.

Never Stop Learning

In our strategic plan, Catholic Family Service identified that we would pioneer the evolution of services related to family situations through research, advocacy and innovation. To fulfill this ambition well, we know that we need to keep learning, and the students enrolled in Never Too Late show us the courage and determination that maintaining a growth-mindset requires.

While expanding the program from Bowness to the Greater Forest Lawn area, we quickly learned the importance of building and leveraging partnerships in the community. Not only to ensure the program is effective and sustainable but to provide additional supports to students with complex needs. Inspired by the students, we’re excited to take what we learned over the past three years and apply it to another expansion of Never Too Late, bringing the program to Calgary’s Beltline community!

Working in collaboration with the Calgary Urban Project Society (CUPS), we’re figuring out how we can layer our services together. As a result, participants in Catholic Family Service’s Beltline Never Too Late program will also have seamless access to CUPS’ services. Similarly, people accessing services at CUPS will have smoother access to Never Too Late. By providing students with this range of supports, we believe we can strengthen their resiliency and reduce stress in their lives, improving their capacity for learning. By working together with CUPS to offer Never Too Late, we believe we can transform an already strong program into an incredible force for change in the community.

We’re grateful for the generosity displayed during the 2019 UP & Away Charity Gala. The donations and contributions made that night are supporting this latest expansion of Never Too Late.