by Gloria Welton, The Employment Journey on PEI, November 2016 issue
In honour of the late Phyllis Pitre, former Chair of the Career Development Association of PEI Inc., a bursary has been established.
At the age of 48, on November 21, 2011, Phyllis passed away after a courageous battle with cancer. She lived in Charlottetown and was formerly of Tignish Shore.
The 2016 bursary was divided into three prizes of $500 each and distributed in September 2016. The award is for adult learners on PEI who are 30 years old or older who are working towards completing a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree. Applicants must demonstrate Phyllis’ values of leadership, public speaking, volunteering, and life-long learning.
The following is Heather Watterson's story. Check out fellow winners Zahra Jahanmiri and Shawnna Gaudet in separate posts.
Having finances to enter the second year of college was a game changer
Heather Watterson is in the second year of the Computer Information Systems program at Holland College in Summerside. “Without the bursary and funding from SkillsPEI, I would not have been able to return to college this fall. The week before classes started, I got the calls that confirmed I would have enough money to return to school, and it was a game changer.
“If I hadn’t come back, that lost time would have been hard to recover, because of the ever- changing world of technology. I love the program I am taking and I wish I would have entered it years ago.”
For the last 15 years, Heather has worked in retail. “When I worked in retail, the computer systems become a frustration for me. I tried to do various functions, but the systems did not have the capability. I always thought I could fix those problems, and that sparked my interest in the field.”
Heather is glad to return to the program and feels that the sky is limit. “The program is part of my plan to get into a new career. Summerside is my hometown and I would like to stay. I am originally from Nova Scotia and my son was born in Ontario. My mother is from PEI, and my parents moved here when my father retired from the navy. I moved here when my son was born because that is where the support is.
“I have a Bachelor of Arts in history and political science, as well as a diploma in broadcast journalism from Ontario, but I felt my skills were outdated and I needed to return to post-secondary. I was working as manager of a retail store in Summerside, and when it closed I thought this is my chance to go back to school.
“I went to Career Development Services for career direction. An IT occupation kept coming up. It is a perfect match for me. I love the challenges. This is a busy time, but when I get past the struggles and obstacles and the work, I can’t believe that I am accomplishing and learning so much. It is very rewarding.”
Heather was always able to find work over the years but couldn’t seem to get ahead. “Even though I had full-time work, I was not earning enough to make a good living and have a good life.
“My son will be 22 in November. He looks at what I have done and is proud of his mom. I didn’t give up, and I had the determination, even though I didn’t know exactly where I was going. I realized that no one was going to do it for me, so I have to do this myself.”
Phyllis and Heather have so much in common - creative, family oriented, and an inspiration to her family.