Carlton grad overcomes adversity to finish education

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Matt Gardner
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Carlton Comprehensive Public High School graduate Brittany McKay (right) poses with her two-year-old son Kocean and graduation ceremony escort Georgianna McDonald at the Art Hauser Centre on Thursday just prior to the Grand March.

Graduation for any student represents the culmination of years of hard work.

Some students, however, can experience more difficulties in that time than others.

As she joined fellow students for graduation ceremonies on Thursday at the Art Hauser Centre, Carlton Comprehensive Public High School graduate Brittany McKay was acutely aware of her own trials and tribulations en route to receiving her diploma.

“I’m excited that I graduated,” said McKay, 19. “I had a rough life.”

A self-described tomboy in her childhood, McKay moved to Prince Albert more than a dozen years ago and attended classes at Carlton for the last four to five.

“I started out pretty bad and I went through a lot of trouble there,” she recalled. “I was one of those kids that didn’t really care about school.”

It was while at Carlton that McKay met Wilfred Canada, who later became the father of her two-year-old son Kocean.

Tragically, the couple’s relationship was cut short when Canada died after they had been together for just under five years.

“I don’t know how he died,” McKay said. “I wasn’t with him at the time.”

“Me and (Kocean’s) dad were really close,” she added. “We were like best friends.”

Left on her own as a single mother, McKay’s life had changed completely -- and her views on education began to follow suit.

Having a baby dramatically increased her determination to finish school. In order to achieve her goal, she drew upon an extensive network of support.

“With Carlton, they helped me out a lot and the classes there are great,” McKay said. “It only took me four months to finish six credits, so the Carlton daycare really helped me. My mom helped me out a lot too.”

A lot of single mothers think it’s hard to complete and do stuff with their life, but it’s not hard. You just have to work forward and know your kids can’t suffer the way you suffered. Brittany McKay

McKay described her years at Carlton as a time in which she “grew up a lot.”

“I’ve seen how things were as a parent, how I used to give my mom a lot of hell,” she said. “I finally see what she means -- that you’ve got to respect your parents.”

Currently expecting her second child, McKay shows no signs of curtailing her quest to follow her dreams.

As a newly minted Carlton graduate, she has ambitions to become a social worker.

“I was planning for correctional studies, but I’m on my second kid right now,” she said. “So I think social work would be pretty good, because you can work in a lot of different fields with social work.”

While acknowledging the difficulties that can face many single mothers, McKay continues to maintain a positive outlook.

“A lot of single mothers think it’s hard to complete and do stuff with their life, but it’s not hard,” she said.

“You just have to work forward and know your kids can’t suffer the way you suffered -- because a lot of young mothers go through a lot of stuff when they grow up.”

McKay was one of 287 Carlton students who officially graduated on Thursday.

Principal Dawn Kilmer noted that this year’s graduating class was slightly smaller compared to previous years.

“The demographics in the city are down over the last two or three years, so it’s just a normal dip in demographics for this age group,” she said. “Fewer people of that age group are available.”

Organizations: Art Hauser Centre, Carlton Comprehensive Public High School, Prince Albert

Geographic location: Canada

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