Mikaela Garbanewski

Mikaela Garbanewski

Like Einstein said: it’s all relative, even reaching the top

At what point in an individual’s life is real success achieved?

Is it buying that first home, a six-figure income, getting married, or maybe it’s retiring at 45?

For NorQuest College practical nurse student Mikaela Garbanewski, 22, she’s already there and yet she’s achieved none of the above.

“I look back to where I was before I started my journey at NorQuest,” she says. “I was a lot less independent than I am now. And since then I have gotten better jobs, and finally even got my own car. Everything right now is going really well.”

To fully understand Garbanewski’s own measure of success, you have to hear her story: out of the family house at 15, not attending any school at 16, earning minimum wage at 19, and all along knowing that moving out of her hometown to find better opportunities was not an option.

“Moving to the city would have uprooted my life, which I wasn’t willing to do,” says the resident of Whitecourt, Alberta where NorQuest has one of three regional campuses.

So she did what a lot young people do when faced with life without a high school diploma: she tried to do it alone.

“I attempted do get my high school four times through correspondence. It wasn’t that I wasn’t capable, I just didn’t have the ability to self-focus. So I just continued working in jobs I didn’t like until I realized that if I didn’t do something right now, that I would be in the same position in five years.”

It took a visit with a NorQuest College recruiter (recommended by two of her cousins who also found success at NorQuest) to help her understand that earning a high school diploma, and subsequently a post-secondary accreditation, is something she could still do independently. The difference with NorQuest programming is that a learner is supported all the way through their journey, starting at any stage of their education. Those supports included include financial help.

“What really made a difference was the funding I got. There were terms and conditions to the funding like not missing a certain number of classes. And even with the classes that were online, I was still in a classroom setting with other people so it made it easier to attend.”

Today, she is not only a high school graduate but a young woman who goes outs and gets things done rather than waits for them to come to her. 

“I had a goal, and I have achieved it.”

Success! And that’s with 10 months left until she becomes a college graduate.