Marina Starkes

My name is Marina Starkes. I quit school before completing grade eight. I was sixteen years old and had lost all interest in education. I never studied at home, skipped classes every chance I got and simply wanted to be anywhere but school.

Getting an education didn't seem to be very important back then. The teachers never encouraged students to stay and my parents allowed me to quit. Before my seventeenth birthday I found myself married with a child on the way. Any thought of returning to school were lost to the struggles of every day living.

With the announcement of the cod moratorium I knew my days as a fish grader with Crimson Tide Fisheries were almost over. The TAGS cheque I received helped but I knew it wouldn't last forever. Thoughts of a bleak future made me realize the only chance for a better lifestyle would be to get more education.

The opportunity was there, so I grabbed it. But I had another reason for going back to school. My husband doesn't have much education either. It's not that he's stupid. he's good with his hands, he has worked at the fish plant for years, and he's a good carpenter. He went back to school for one year in 1992 but found it very difficult.

One day he heard about the local Laubach Organization that offered one on one tutoring in the home. I feel sure with a bit of encouragement he would take advantage of something like that. I helped him study for his driver's written test. it only took him three hours to study everything in the booklet. He passed the test with one question wrong.

At the age of 34 I signed up for an ABE class at William Mercer Academy.

spent one year there and the next three at the Dover Recreation Center.

Starting school again was very scary. It was extra difficult for me because I was still working at the fish plant on a call-in basis. There were times when I would have to leave class to go to work for a couple of hours.

But knowing what I've accomplished and feeling so good about it, I would do it all over again. It's the best feeling in the world. Without an education you're nothing. With it, you feel more comfortable when you go places; you don't have to look over your shoulder to see if anyone is watching you make a mistake. You just feel better.

Toward the end, our group was concerned that the school would close because of low enrolment and lack of funding. We were about to do our final exams when things became pretty hectic. All the talk about closing down after we'd come so far and had worked so hard, left us feeling despondent.

We were devastated but we stuck together and put up a good fight. The instructors were behind us all the way. We were down to our last two credits and things had become very stressful by then.

We had worked so hard. We studied all night long. When I was studying for the last math exam, I was so nervous and depressed from the commotion and confusion that I didn't think I was going to pass it.

My instructor called from his home and told me the good news. I had passed. What a big relief. There's nothing easy about getting an education and if it wasn't for the instructors, I don't think we would have gotten through it.

We started with twenty-eight students in class. At the end of the fourth year, only ten had completed the course. Out of that ten, there were only three of the original twenty-eight students left. It was enjoyable and never boring, there was something new to learn every day. It felt really good when I graduated, but I know there is still a lot more to learn.

At the age of sixty-five, my mother also went back to school. We both attended the same class. Although she had to deal with a lot of sickness, she stuck with it for three years. I think she kept going for me. She said s didn't care as much about herself but she wanted to see me finish my grad twelve while I was still young. So she was more or less cheering me on a helping me through.

I had hoped to follow up with more training. My goal was to become an interior decorator but the only thing offered was a fifteen hour evening course. I've considered doing a computer course. I could have gone right into a cooking course after the ABE, but I don't believe in putting all that time, effort and money into training just because it's available.

I am now working fourteen hours a week at home care. I am glad to have the job, but home care isn't for me. I am still hoping to further my education. I miss getting up early in the morning to get ready for school. It gave me something to look forward to.


  1. What did Marina say was her only chance for a better lifestyle?
  2. What was her other reason for going back to school?
  3. What did Marina say about having an education?
  4. Give the dictionary meaning for the word 'despondent'.

Table of Contents