Written by Pamela Roth
At 24, Beth Many Gray Horses was a single mother with two children. She was growing tired of working various retail jobs to support her family and had always dreamed of having a career.
But with no funding assistance from the reserve and two children to support, she wasn't sure how she'd be able to handle a full slate of college classes for at least two years.
The solution for her problems literally fell on her lap one afternoon when she was at 5th on 5th Youth Services in downtown Lethbridge, combing through the job postings. She noticed there was a Reeves College in the downstairs portion of the building, which prompted her to make some inquiries. A course for business administration caught her eye, especially since it would only take nine months to complete.
Once she got approved for a student loan - a hurdle she had problems clearing in the past, Many Gray Horses was well on her way towards achieving her career and becoming a college graduate. Her success was heightened when she found a job immediately after graduation.
Never did she imagine that her within nine months she would have a career and a good-paying job. To say it was a turning point in her life would be an understatement.
"I didn't think I would be able to do it, but I did. The instructors really encouraged me and said I could do it. They were very helpful," said Many Gray Horses, whose confidence was shaken due to negative experiences with previous post-secondary education facilities. "I took the courses I needed to get the diploma and that's what I like."
Although it's been in Lethbridge for about a year, Reeves College is still relatively unknown in the city.
According to campus director Penni Kiss, at its highest point the college had about 65 students that were enrolled in a variety of courses from legal assistant, business administration management and medical office assistant to paralegal, accounting and payroll administrator.
One of the huge draws for the college, said Kiss, is the fact students can have a college diploma in as soon as 34 weeks, with four hours of classes offered either in the morning or afternoon. And since the college is small, students receive plenty of one-on-one instruction - something they may not experience at a university of large college, which can often make it difficult for the students who find themselves struggling with their classes.
With the economic downtimes upon us, Kiss has been receiving more inquires than ever from people who have been laid off and are suddenly in need of a career change. As the college starts to become more recognized throughout the city, she expects only good things ahead for graduates of the school, which will host its first graduation ceremony on June 11.
"You can definitely get a career in less than a year. Being able to get in and out of here and into something they enjoy doing in a short amount of time is a real appeal," said Kiss, who noted the most successful course has been the medical office assistant program where students are encouraged to pursue their own practicum, and have been snapped up by employers as a result. "As we become more recognized in the community, people are starting to know who we are and recognize us, and that's been exciting."
Reeves College was established in 1961 by C.J. Reeves, a professional secretary and instructor. The college provides diploma courses in business, education and health care, and is located in Edmonton, Lloydminister, Calgary and Lethbridge. The majority of the classes have between 12 and 25 students, depending on the popularity of the program and the time of year.
The positive college experience has inspired Many Gray Horses to further her education and follow her dream of becoming a police officer. She may not have the time to do it now, but it's something she's confident she will achieve in the near future.
"I believe I can do it now. After getting this diploma, I know I can get another one," she said.