What inspired a young mom to go from welding, to driving a taxi, to earning her bachelor of social work degree?
Love for her late mother and brother, and for her little girl.
Heather Lynch, of Paradise, N.L., will collect her bachelor of social work (BSW) degree at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre on Thursday, June 2.
The Memorial 2022 spring graduate was only 18 when she discovered she was pregnant.
She didn’t know how her life was going to go or how she was going to provide for her daughter.
She thought she’d never get to university. So, when her daughter was nine months old, she trained to become a welder.
The long hours of manual labour and difficulty finding jobs spurred her to drive a taxi, instead. But — she wanted more for herself and her daughter.
Ms. Lynch always aspired to become a social worker, like her mother, who passed away in 2006.
Her mom had a disability for the last 10 years of her life and used a walker.
A young Ms. Lynch always told her mother that, when she grew up, she was going to fix her back for her.
When her mom died, Ms. Lynch shifted her focus to helping people in general.
Ms. Lynch started the BSW program at Memorial’s School of Social Work when her daughter started kindergarten.
They did their school work together.
“He wouldn’t want me to stop, and neither would mom.”
She says that there were many times she felt overwhelmed and, at times, like when her daughter asked her to play a game and she had to say no because she had a paper to finish, she really struggled.
“I’m doing this for you, for us,” she would remind herself, and try to believe that one day her daughter would understand.
She was also doing it for her brother, who she lost at the start of the 2021 winter semester.
Ms. Lynch says he was always very supportive of her, especially of pursuing her degree. She was devastated. She thought she’d have to take a break from her program, but she pushed herself to continue.
“I tried to focus on what he would want me to do,” she said. “He wouldn’t want me to stop, and neither would mom.”
Support and mentorship
Ms. Lynch says she was often plagued with self-doubt during her program.
She didn’t think she would be able to complete her degree, but she was passionate about what she was doing and she says “amazing” professors helped her realize her potential.
“The support and mentorship of my social work professors gave me confidence — like, I can do this!”
The support of her family and friends was also crucial, she says.
“It feels so great to be able to show my daughter that you can do anything.”
Not only did she go on to earn an 86.6 per cent average with a 4.0 GPA, her field instructors were impressed with her performance in her placements.
Having worked in the community and with government and volunteered with seniors, Ms. Lynch says she’s open to working in any area of social work.
‘Be your own trailblazer’
Her advice for students struggling to continue their program in the midst of challenges?
“Stay determined and focused on your goal and remember the reasons that brought you to university in the first place.”
This time 10 years ago, Ms. Lynch was pregnant and says she never could have imagined she would be walking across the stage at convocation.
“It feels so great to be able to show my daughter that you can do anything you put your mind to. There’s times you’ve got to be your own trailblazer, even if you can’t envision your future, you’ve just got to jump in sometimes. You’ve got to believe in yourself.”