This September, Jina Rew will start a new path in her post-secondary education, taking an accelerated nursing degree program. But that wouldn’t have been possible without the tremendous support she received through The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education’s Spanning the Gaps program.
Five years ago, Jina was enrolled in her second year of a business degree at another university — but things weren’t going well. Along with realizing she chose the wrong major — she was more interested in social justice issues than economics — she was facing challenges in her personal life. So, she made the decision to drop out of her degree and find a new path forward.
“I felt that my grades weren’t adequate enough to qualify me as a transfer student for the programs I wanted at other universities,” Jina said. “I was looking around various Internet forums and came across the Spanning the Gaps program. Other people had taken courses there as a way to gain entry into university programs.”
Fulfilling her post-secondary education dreams
The Spanning the Gaps program is geared toward candidates with potential for success in post-secondary education but have educational gaps resulting in incomplete admissions requirements for post-secondary studies. The program is aimed at mature learners (aged 21-plus), who might not otherwise experience post-secondary education due to social or financial barriers.
Spanning the Gaps was exactly what Jina was looking for: a fresh start.
Jina enrolled, started the bridging program in January 2016, and then went on to begin her undergraduate degree in environment and urban sustainability at Ryerson University in September 2016. From there, she quickly made friends with people who had diverse backgrounds but similar interests and a parallel commitment to succeeding in school. Jina joined student groups, worked as an academic link and residence advisor at Ryerson University’s residence, and found a sense of community. She also found knowledgeable guidance whenever she needed it from her case coordinator and instructors.
“What I liked the most about Spanning the Gaps was how each student was paired with a case coordinator. Janice Pinto was my case coordinator for four years and she was such an integral part of my journey in readjusting to the post-secondary environment,” Jina said . “She constantly kept me in the loop about different student resources and support systems. That really helped.”
Jina’s instructors also made her feel she had people in her corner. She describes them as being always approachable and willing to advocate for their students. “Everyone at the Spanning the Gaps program just wants to see you succeed and, if you need help, everyone is willing to look out for your best interests and assist you,” she said.
The road ahead
Now, having completed her undergraduate program in June 2020, Jina is ready to tackle a new program —and this time, it’s one that aligns perfectly with her interests and passions.
In the context of the pandemic, she is even more motivated to pursue a career in nursing. While, like all students, she isn’t sure what university will look like in the fall with post-secondary institutions transitioning to online learning models, she feels primed to succeed.
“Spanning the Gaps gave me a clean slate to start university again, and it also gave me the confidence to tackle university as a mature student,” Jina said. “One of my biggest insecurities was feeling like I was behind friends who had already graduated: I felt like everyone was moving forward around me and I was the only one stuck in school. But Spanning the Gaps didn’t make me feel like that. It made me feel a lot more assured in where I was in life, and that coming back to school is something to be celebrated.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alison MacAlpine is an award-winning writer and editor based in Toronto. She contributes regularly to The Globe and Mail and, through her company AM Communications, develops everything from brochures and newsletters to presentations, speeches and web sites. She is also an enthusiastic lifelong learner who has benefited from many classes at The Chang School over her 25-year career.