Coming back to school 23 years later ‘changed the direction of my life’: Continuing Ed Valedictorian | District Highlights | Maple Ridge - Pitt Meadows Ҵý District 42


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Coming back to school 23 years later ‘changed the direction of my life’: Continuing Ed Valedictorian

Channi Gonzales stood at the front of the stage, facing her classmates, teachers, family, and friends.

“I would like to start off by congratulating the graduates on completing this chapter of your journey,” she said into the microphone in front of her. “This is only the beginning.”

Gonzales is giving her valedictorian speech to the Continuing Education (CE) class of 2023. Her own journey to this moment spanned two decades, from the time she dropped out of school to crossing the stage at her graduation in 2023.

“I’ve never really had people to look up to in my life or many supports beyond the people and family I have in this room,” she told the audience. “But I came to CE and I met extremely amazing people who pushed me, even when I felt defeated and wanted to quit.”

Now 38 years old, Gonzales was only 14 when she left school.

“My parents had been drug addicts my whole life and we’d been homeless for periods of time living in a car,” she said. “I had fallen really far behind and then eventually my parents moved away without me.”

Gonzales said she tried to continue her schooling, but it was difficult to support herself and study, so she ended up having to drop out and work three jobs instead.

Channi Gonzales at her graduation from the Continuing Education program in 2023 with her sons.

Channi with her sons at graduation.

“I had always wanted to go back and finish school but life kept throwing me curve balls,” she said.

She was incarcerated for three months at the age of 19, got married at 21, and was a mom by 23. By 24 years old, she was pregnant with her second son and a single mom.

“At the end of 2016, I once again attempted to go back to school,” Gonzales explained, but in early 2017, her father died from an overdose. Over the next three years, she was in four car accidents that left her with injuries.

It wasn’t until her son’s grades began to slip that she was called to action – this time, with a fierce determination.

“My son was 14, the same age I was when I dropped out. His grades were slipping and I knew he could do more,” she said, so she decided to make a pact with both her sons.

“That if I enrolled in school and I got As and Bs, they would work to boost their grades as well.”

She wanted to lead by example – and she did. Gonzales enrolled in Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows Ҵý District’s in January 2022. Her first class was English 12 with Kim Henneberry Glover.

“It was really scary at first, but thankfully Kim was my first teacher,” Gonzales said. “It took me a while to get my bearings. She was really patient with me, super helpful, and I started doing better quality work.”

Continuing Education class of 2023 valedictorian Channi Gonzales with instructor Kim Henneberry Glover and school board chairperson Elaine Yamamoto.

Channi with school board chairperson Elaine Yamamoto and CE teacher Kim Henneberry Glover.

But her time in school wasn’t without its own challenges, Gonzales explained, and having someone like Henneberry Glover was a big help.

“Having mentorship and someone there to say, ‘you can do it, you’re almost done, you’ve done this much, don’t give up now’ – it pushed me to keep coming,” she said.

Henneberry Glover says listening to Gonzales’ valedictorian speech and watching her receive her BC Adult Graduation Diploma (BCAGD) was a special moment.

“When you’re helping an adult who is also working, who also has children, who also has other issues going on in their life, and you see them succeed, it’s an incredible feeling,” said Henneberry Glover. “Grad is always an incredible time for us.”

With diploma in hand and new goals in mind, this is only the beginning for Gonzales.

“As I step into my future, hopefully as a student at BCIT’s medical imaging program, and build a new life for my sons and I, I will look back at my time at CE as a place that forever changed the direction of my life,” she said.

To learn more about the SD42 Continuing Education program, .

Channi Gonzales receives her BC Adult Graduation Diploma from the Continuing Education program in 2023.

Channi receives her BC Adult Graduation Diploma from SD42 assistant superintendent Ken Cober and Continuing Education principal Tricia McCuaig.

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