Family who study together, graduate together

When Dian Palmer decided she wanted to leave Jamaica to study in Canada, her son, Keita Linton quickly followed in her footsteps. Now, just days from convocation, the pair reflect on their experience at Medicine Hat College (MHC).

As a mother of four, the decision to pursue post-secondary education was not easy, but Dian reflects on the moment she decided to begin her studies.

“One day, I was gardening. I was planting bananas and Keita, who was twelve at the time, was helping me. He asked, ‘how long does the banana take to bear?’ I said eight to nine months and he said to me oh that’s too long. I said, ‘well, if you don’t plant the banana right now, we still don’t have banana to eat in eight to nine months.’ Within the same day, I was complaining that I wanted to go to university but I couldn’t because I didn’t have the finance nor any support or help in any way for university. He said to me, ‘how long is it going to take to go to university?’ I said four years. And he said ‘four years after now, you’re going to be complaining that you should have gone to university and you won’t have a degree four years from now.’ So he turned it around on me and that was my encouragement.”

After this moment, Dian decided to attend Northern Caribbean University for her Bachelor of Social Work, from which she graduated in 2016. Due to the lack of jobs in their country, however, she set her sights on Canada to continue her education. Not long after beginning her studies at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Keita joined her and the pair quickly gained interest in attending MHC.

“We learned about MHC from some other people who moved over from Memorial University and after I finished one year, I came to Medicine Hat. I got accepted to the college for Child and Youth Care Counsellor (CYCC) in 2018,” explains Dian.

Keita adds, “I also came here in Newfoundland, however I only did one semester at Memorial University before I came to MHC with mom.” He continues, “I was in Business Administration, however my passion is in technology. At the university in Jamaica, I was in Information Technology (IT) so when I got here, it was a good opportunity to join the IT program”

With their acceptances in hand, they were promptly confronted with life as students, as they worked as a family to support themselves and succeed in school.

“All we came to Canada with was our ambition, determination and willingness to work hard to get it, so we worked together, we rented a place together, ate together… we did everything together as a family.”


A ‘supportive’ learning environment

The mother and son credit their intrinsic motivation, their faith and the support of their instructors as the key factors to their success.

“Information Technology is a program that is very technical and I wasn’t sure how I would pull it off,” Keita explains. “I found that coming to MHC was a very good decision because my instructors were very supportive.”

For Keita, the ability for his instructors to adapt lectures to the needs of each student was a game-changer from his past post-secondary experiences.

“That was one thing that kept me motivated and kept me within the program, because of that support. My goal was to get A’s in college and I managed not just to pass but to get honours, based on my dedication and the help from my instructors,” explains Keita.

“The College made me push very hard. It was a very good experience, I would recommend Medicine Hat College any day. We have invited many people from Jamaica who are currently here at the college, and some are coming for the fall.”

Of the School of Health & Community Services, Dian agrees, the support was paramount. She recalls a course she had taken that was almost entirely based on memorization. Despite her late nights studying, when she attended the exam, she could not remember anything. She told her instructor about her predicament and he allowed her to take a fifteen minute break to gather herself.

“That fifteen minutes was like ten hours, it worked wonders. I laid my head on the desk for ten minutes and for the last five minutes, I asked if I could step out to do some jumping jacks. I went back for my exam and I wrote about eight pages,” says Dian. After the exam, her instructor approached her to commend her on her work, “he said, ‘Dian, you did exceptionally well’… and I got an A! I could not believe it. It taught me to never give up and I want to say thank you.”


The significance of graduation

When attending university in Jamaica, Dian studied alongside her daughter, creating a family tradition of graduating together. Now, walking the stage on the same day as her son, she takes great pride in both her accomplishment and those of her children.

“For my family, graduation is a milestone,” says Dian, adding, “My mother’s children have children and my children are the first to acquire higher education. As a mother, I am happy that he listened and I am proud to know that we have done it.”

An additional sense of pride for Dian is knowing that she is the first of nine children in her family to have completed post-secondary education and will use it to improve their lives.

“I believe that education is the way out of poverty. Education is the way to help you be integrated in society in a successful way. So whether you are poor or you’re rich, education is what will take you where you want to go. I was adamant to ensure I enforced that in my children and it’s good that they accepted it.”


The next chapter

As they put their student life behind them, Dian and Keita are looking forward to new opportunities. While she searches for employment opportunities in Social Work and Child & Youth Care Counselling, Dian currently runs a day home that is growing in clientele. Keita is also currently working as he recently accepted a position as a Network Administrator for a large company in Grand Prairie, after receiving multiple job offers.

“I applied for IT jobs for about two months and I don’t know how it happened, but within the same week, I got three job offers. I had the option to select whatever one I wanted. So I got an awesome opportunity with a company that believes in me.”

While he is happy where he is right now, the IT professional plans to return to school in the future to obtain his degree in computer science.