By Hannah Coderre, Never Too Late Coordinator, Catholic Family Service

The Never Too Late program held its inaugural graduation ceremony in Calgary’s Greater Forest Lawn area November 9. These five graduates, who worked tirelessly and through much adversity to attain their General Equivalency Diploma (GED), crossed the stage that night.

More than 75 people helped celebrate their accomplishment. Through speeches and personalized affirmations, by presenting certificates and roses, and – of course – by sharing delicious food, we marked this historic occasion.

Since Catholic Family Service began offering the Never Too Late program in 2008, the program has been located in the Bowness community in northwest Calgary. Our research indicated that the need was also great in the southeast, so it was always our intention to expand to Greater Forest Lawn. When funding fell into place last year, we started working to introduce a new location. As a result, we can offer many more opportunities for adults to study for their GED exams within a supportive community, with no cost to them.

The Greater Forest Lawn program launched on February 9, 2017 with 25 courageous students. Each student had previously faced multiple barriers to completing their education. All of these students were brave enough to walk through the doors of Father Lacombe High School and invite Catholic Family Service to be part of their journey.

During the four-and-a-half months of the program, many students endured obstacles outside of the classroom, in the form of poverty, relationship breakdowns, mental health concerns, work obligations, and unforeseen circumstances. This made it incredibly difficult for all 25 to remain; many had to make a tough decision to withdraw from the program. We know that some students will return when the timing is better for them.

Between the end of June and September, seven students successfully obtained their GED. They included a father whose decision to get his GED will make a profound impact on his children; three mothers who are inspiring their children, partners and community; and two others who will make a difference as they become a social worker and a paramedic. For a few, it meant crossing this enormous goal off their bucket list. We are so proud of them all.

We wouldn’t have been able to launch Never Too Late in Greater Forest Lawn without local organizations who supported us with community knowledge, resources, space, referrals, and much more. We are grateful for these relationships and look forward to continuing to work together.

This program is not just about students attaining a piece of paper; it’s about the community they create together and the impact they will have on their friends and families for generations to come.

We are now underway in Greater Forest Lawn with 30 students in the second cohort, who are already becoming great inspirations to their families. Can’t wait for graduation ceremony number two!

Never Too Late will be offered in two Calgary locations in 2018:

Our Lady of the Assumption School for residents of Bowness, Montgomery, Greenwood Village, Silver Springs and Ranchlands. For more information, contact Amy St. Jean at 403-205-5292,

Father Lacombe High School for residents of Greater Forest Lawn area: Forest Lawn, Forest Heights, Erinwoods, Dover, Penbrooke Meadows, Southview  and Albert Park/Radisson. For more information, contact Hannah Coderre at 403-604-7418,