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Olga’s Story

January 12, 2019

Olga was in grade 9 when she dropped out of school to help her mother care for her five siblings.

For many years, Olga worked in retail to provide financial support for her family but had dreams of working with children. After expressing her dream to her husband, John, he offered nothing but support. While she thought she was too old, John’s persistence encouraged Olga to obtain the education she needed. But while she was obtaining her high school equivalency, John was diagnosed with cancer.

Olga Rusnak“He wanted me to finish my school, and that was the hardest thing I could have ever done”. Olga took her schoolwork to the hospital so she could study by her husband’s side as he received chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She went on to earn her Education Assistant certificate from Urban Circle Training Centre Inc. in 2012, but not long after that, John passed away.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do after that, I was just totally lost. But I just kept remembering his words. He said, ‘Keep on going.’ He wanted me to have a future.

Olga then had an opportunity to enrol in the Early Childhood Education program at Red River College, which allowed her to work Monday through Wednesday, while going to RRC on Thursday and Friday. On top of a flexible schedule, she also had a strong new support system. She had instructors and classmates, as well as RRC’s Indigenous Student Support Centre, pick up right where John had left off.

“You’ve got all the support you need (at RRC),” she says. “There are a lot of instructors that really give you the boost, the confidence, the encouragement that you need. They have your back. And that’s what got me going. I’ll always remember them. I don’t mean to sound corny, but I’m just so grateful.”

“We’re in the North End, and I can see some of these parents, how they struggle,” she says. “They’re going to school and their children are coming here and sometimes you can see the stress. I’ve been through it, and I’m right there for them, telling them, ‘I did it, and you can too!’ A lot of people need that confidence.”

The day after graduating from the Early Childhood Education program, Olga visited her husband’s gravesite to tell him the good news. ‘I did it, Hon. I did it.’

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