Lindsay Folland smiles for the camera

Beating the odds

July 6, 2021
Author: Eric Zimmer

Meet VIU WEST graduate Lindsay Folland

Lindsay Folland wasn't supposed to make it this far.

When I was a child I was given a formal diagnosis that I would never be beyond an elementary school level,” she says. “I was told I am too socially impaired to have any meaningful relationships and I would need 24-7 support to bathe, dress, and eat.”

However, the people who told her these things, she says, were “thankfully and obviously not psychic."

Lindsay has been in what she says is a loving relationship for two years now, and has been employed for almost three years in the field of mental health.

Beyond just proving the naysayers wrong in her personal life, Lindsay has found success in her post-secondary career as well, graduating with honours this past spring from VIU's WEST (Workplace Essential Skills Training) program, and being selected as valedictorian.

“My father always wanted to see me succeed in my endeavours, and as I carry on the family name, as the first to attend post-secondary, I know he is flying on the wings of an eagle looking in pride with my many other angels in my family watching over me," she says.

We caught up with Lindsay recently, to get her thoughts on the program, her experience at VIU, and her advice for those facing challenges and doubts in their own life. Here's what she told us:

Can you tell us about what drew you to the WEST program at VIU and what that decision process was like?

I was interested in the unique courses that the Workplace Essentials Skills Training Program offered. As someone who had an individualized education program through a private learning centre, I appreciated the student-centered approach and the idea of developing my goals and where that might take me. After graduating from the program, I now feel that the skills learned are essential and benefits everyone by focusing on study techniques, communication, goal setting, personal health, budgeting, and many workplace opportunities and work related certificates.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic shape your overall experience, and how did you adapt?

My course, although initially not adapted for online instruction, ended up being 70% online. I live out in Errington, so it was challenging commuting to Nanaimo four days a week for in-person classes. I spent two nights every week at a family friend's house, so I always had about 80 pounds of laundry, books, food, etc., in a hiking bag that I would take everywhere with me. Although my routine wasn't used to education from home during the pandemic, it did provide me some relief by seeing my family more and not worrying about transportation. I helped pioneer a weekly social hour every Sunday for my classmates and I, so that we could still check in with each other and have that supportive and fun atmosphere that we normally would have during lunch breaks or after class. Being online can be isolating so I really wanted to make sure that we were engaging with each other. 

Can you share some highlights from your time at VIU?

The biggest takeaways from my time at the WEST program was learning to develop and advance my life skills and seeing my potential as a student. There are so many amazing things I learned in the program, but it's difficult to sum up two years in a single article. It's given me the feeling that anything is possible. Being the first person in my family to attend university was very daunting and when there wasn't anyone in my life that experienced that, it really felt like I was starting on my own path.

Any advice for new or current students, or those thinking about continuing their education at VIU?

Get familiar with the supports available to students. There are so many opportunities at VIU that not everyone is aware of or feels like they shouldn't access the services because "other people need it more." Everything from counselling, advocacy, recreation, funding, educational adaptations, employment and community involvement opportunities. There are a wide variety of things to do. I feel like if you are struggling with something, you shouldn't have to tough it out because people have a different situation than you, that's one of the things that makes VIU so diverse is that there is always someone to help you when you need or friends to be made.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Throughout our lives we face a series of challenges and how we step up to the plate is where our ball will go. Bravery does not mean that you are fearless. Bravery means that you push on despite your fears and go beyond your doubts. I think as students we are constantly thinking about our future: the next final, grades, achievement, the best career, or fear of what's going to happen next. If this pandemic has taught me anything that I could pass on, it is just to be present. My classmates and faculty have gone through battles you won't see in movies, they have lost more than they knew they had, and have had the bravery and courage of champions. Be proud of what you are doing right now, and who you are, do things for enjoyment instead of productivity (easier said than done though), and take care of yourself first. Life is too short to only seek out the approval of others, because at the end of the day you're the only one who can accept the praise.

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