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Things fell apart - Thanks to VCLA, Middleton mom working on Grade 12 all these years later

Tracy Parker, left, a program coordinator at Valley Community Learning Association, worked with 38-year-old mom Tasha Crouse to help her gain confidence and higher self-esteem on her way to getting her Grade 12. The VCLA has offices is Kentville and Middleton.
Tracy Parker, left, a program coordinator at Valley Community Learning Association, worked with 38-year-old mom Tasha Crouse to help her gain confidence and higher self-esteem on her way to getting her Grade 12. The VCLA has offices is Kentville and Middleton. - Lawrence Powell

Tasha Crouse is articulate, funny, outgoing. It hasn’t always been that way. In fact for years it hadn’t been that way at all. She was a homebody held back by confidence and social anxiety issues.

A Grade 9 education didn’t unlock any doors and did nothing for her self worth or esteem.

“I was starting Grade 10. And then things just kind of fell apart,” she said.

With every student who drops out, there’s a reason. Tasha cleaned out her locker and went home without that high school diploma and, she thought, without much of a future.

“It was family and it was just the teachers were going too fast and I just couldn’t keep up,” she said. “I guess I just kind of gave up. I lost my self confidence and to be able to go on to school and finish it.”

Then life happened, and kids, and the years rolled by so fast that soon her own daughter would be graduating from high school.

Tasha still had just Grade 9 and one day she decided to change all that. Peter Gillis and Tracy Parker came into her life and suddenly the world was all new potential and great possibilities.


Tracy is a program coordinator with Valley Community Learning Association and she’s done a lot of employability types of programs to help students get credentials. She also coordinates a program called Life Streams, a personal development piece that caters to boosting confidence and building self-esteem.

“Just kind of developing some self-worth and using that to propel forward,” she said. “I’ve seen huge successes. I’ve been with VCLA for about nine years now, so we’ve helped people get their beginners, we’ve helped people get their air brake endorsement.”

Gillis is the VCLA executive director and the association has offices at the NSCC Middleton campus where Tasha feels right at home. Gillis, Parker, and Tasha Crouse banter back and forth like old friends.

The program, that uplifts people, is why Tasha went to them in the first place. The friendship soon followed.

“Because they like to help people. And they’ve helped me through a lot,” she said. “I wanted to get my GED because I wanted my Grade 12 so I would be able to get a job to support my daughter – just to help my family out.”

She’s passed four of her five GED tests.

“I just couldn’t get the math,” she said. “I did Life Stream … and that was really good, and it brought my self confidence up and it brought me out of my bubble some more. Then it was in to Transitions, and that’s got me to where I’m able to do ALP (Adult Learning Program) for NSCC to get my Grade 12. I’m hoping to have it by the winter of this year, but if not it will be 2020.”


“Tasha, she’s kind of left us in a way,” said Gillis, “although we still see a fair bit of her. She’s with the college in Level 4 which is roughly Grade 11-12. She’s got a few credits to do. By November she’ll be there hopefully.”

“I’m hoping by November,” Tasha agreed. “If not it will be the spring of 2020. I should have all of it. I’ve got my digital tech credit, I got my math credit, and I’ve got my reading essentials credit. I have to get 12 credits, so I’m almost there.”

But if you thought getting her Grade 12 was the goal, you’d be wrong. It’s just the beginning.

“Once I get my Grade 12 I want to go to NSCC Kingstec and get my Early Childhood Education course to be able to work at daycares or even maybe in a school to work with the little kids, to help out,” she said.

Her daughter is going to graduate from Middleton Regional High School this year and has plans to go to NSCC as well.

“She wants to do the same course that I want to do. She’s going to do her co-op here at NSCC Daycare, so I’m excited for her. I’m proud. I’m proud of my kids,” she said. “She’s sticking to it. I pushed her more to graduate from high school than to go through what I went through. She inspires me every day.”


Tasha is thankful for VCLA and what it can do for people who thought there was no hope for a better life.

“It’s an inspiration for people who need it,” she said.

To Gillis and Parker, Tasha said: “You guys are there to support people who need it – who can’t get through high school – to be able to come in and actually get you Grade 12 or get your GED.”

People like Tasha Crouse.

“They make it easier for you to do it. And if you’re falling behind or you’re just not feeling like you can do this, they got your back all the way,” she said. “They help you through everything. I would very much recommend it to anybody who asked. I would recommend for them to go through VCLA and work with Peter and Tracy to get the help that they need – or just go in and see what they can offer.”

And it’s not just about reading and writing or doing equations. It’s about life too and becoming a person with a brighter future. She’s come out of her shell.

“That’s because of Peter and Tracy helping me through all this,” she said. “They’ve brought me out of my bubble. I’m a home person and they’ve brought me out to where I’m able to go out to Tim Hortons and meet a friend and actually have a coffee and feel comfortable to be able to go do that.”


Everyone who is part of the Valley Community Learning Association – teachers and students – supports the group’s annual fundraiser called ‘The Literacy Mile.’

It’s an opportunity to raise awareness of and support for the literacy needs of Annapolis Valley residents. “You can help us build and walk the mile by picking up a sponsor sheet at our office (and collecting pledges), by making a donation, and/ or coming out on the day of the event,” said Gillis.

This year’s event is May 4 at 49 Cornwallis Street, Kentville and runs from 1 to 3 p.m.

There will be hot dogs and refreshments for sale, live music, a silent auction, and activities for the whole family. All proceeds raised will go toward supporting local literacy and English as an Additional Language programming.

Phone: 1-866-898-READ (7323)


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