Kimberly Elliott, left, with the Jane Norman College, reacts as she hears the Colchester Adult Learning Association announced as the recipient of the latest 100 Women Who Care Truro’s meeting. Mary Teed, right, is the executive director of the winning association and share numerous examples of the work CALA does changing lives. Raissa Tetanish - Hub Now

TRURO – The Colchester Adult Learning Association (CALA) changes lives.

That’s the message Mary Teed, the association’s executive director, put forth multiple times during her speech at the latest 100 Women Who Care Truro meeting. It was her speech that caught the attention of the members, enough so that CALA was chosen as the recipient of more than $10,000. Others speaking were Darlene Holmes for the Serenity Room at the Colchester East Hants Health Centre, and Kimberly Elliott, with the Jane Norman College.

“I’m privileged to be the voice of so many adults who choose CALA to be their starting point for returning to learning,” Teed said.

The executive director told those gathered at the First United Church in Truro that their donations, if CALA was chosen as the recipient, would allow their learners to engage in real life opportunities they may not otherwise have.

“These funds would be set aside for direct learning support, such as learning aides and programs, specialized books and appropriate level learning materials, adaptive aides, and real life experiences to reinforce the learning,” she said.

The learning association offers adults a “systematic approach to learning”, often creating outcomes no one expects, said Teed. She said literacy is a determinant of health impacting many aspects of life, and, along with increasing opportunities with increased literacy, those in the program also “develop social connections and a sense of belonging, which of course leads to healthier individuals and healthier communities.”

Teed and the instructors at CALA often see students who think they can’t for a variety of reasons. Some say they didn’t get along in school, while others think they have a learning disability. Some don’t think they’re smart enough, and some think they’re too old.

“CALA works with each student and community to help us better understand what their learning needs are. We help our learners find their strengths, and then build from there, from their most successful places,” she said.

Teed gave a few examples in her five-minute speech, including one about a 30-something man who left school for a good paying job locally. He provided well for his family, she said, until his work shut down.

“Feeling a little defeated and a bit desperate, he decided having his Grade 12 would make him more employable. He was scared to go back to school as he was not the best student in his high school days. Faithfully, he studied for his GED test and passed all five modules.”

He was asked what was next, but it was a question the man had never entertained before. But, if he could return to school and get his Grade 12, he could do anything.

“So he did,” said Teed. “He’s now fulfilling a dream he never knew he had. This young father is now a fulltime student at NSCC preparing for an exciting career in web development. Even better is his smile, his pride, his renewed connection to a greater community, and the pride his whole family has for him.

“CALA changes lives.”

Another example used was a successful businessman who bluffed his way through life about not knowing how to read.

“His hardest moment? Not being able to read a story to his grandchild. His proudest moment? Learning to read that story to his grandchild,” Teed said.

The executive director has thousands more stories she could tell, however had to keep those stories for the group to a minimum. Her final story, however, was about their oldest learner – an 85-year-old woman.

“Every time I see her she says, ‘Mary, you’re not going to close this school are you? I never went to school as a child and if you let me, I will come here every day.’”

Teed said the woman loves to do math and the instructor puts those math skills to practical use whenever they bake cookies in the kitchen.

“Reading, writing and math is so much more. It’s life changing. You pick up your head, something happens when you succeed,” Teed said.