Connie Kornek was 47-years-old when the glass company she worked for closed and she found herself looking for a new career. A timely information session about the Ontario government’s Second Career program led her to Georgian College’s Owen Sound Campus where she met with one of the staff to determine what she needed to qualify for the Registered Practical Nursing (RPN) program.
Connie started out taking academic upgrading courses in such areas as chemistry and biology when, unexpectedly, she lost her son in a car accident. Despite her grief, Connie kept going, writing the Health Occupation Aptitude Examination – a standardized pre-admission test for entry into the RPN program. After passing the test, Connie found herself on a wait list.
“The timing was unbelievable,” says Connie. “It was the day after Mother’s Day when I got a call from Georgian College saying I had been accepted into the program. It felt like a gift from my son.”
Fittingly, “Mom” was the nickname Connie earned from her younger peers at Georgian. She says the biggest challenge of going back to school was discovering how to learn again after years of being away from the classroom. Connie took advantage of Georgian’s student services to stay on track and had help from fellow students who took the time to teach her how to study effectively and write good essays.
“I can’t say enough about Georgian College,” Connie notes. “It was the personal connections that gave me such a rich learning experience. Yes, I was earning my diploma and learning how to be a good nurse, but I was learning so much more than that. Half of being a student is figuring out who you are – once you do that, you realize just about anything is possible.”
During her three years at Georgian, personal tragedy struck Connie’s life yet again. Her father passed away and she nearly lost her grandson to an illness. Connie earned the title of “Classmate of the Year” by her peers for staying positive and making everyone else laugh despite her heartache.
“Instructors like Marion Lougas, staff, and my supportive classmates gave me the courage and motivation when I needed it most,” she says. “We had the opportunity to share our personal experiences in class and learn how to take those experiences and apply them to our future careers. It was that kind of rich learning that has helped me to become a caring and compassionate nurse.”
Connie is currently finishing up a six-month full-time placement as part of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Nursing Graduate Guarantee initiative and recently passed her RPN examinations.
Her goal for the next year is to land a position working in a long-term care facility. Connie also wants to take an additional course in palliative care. “How we exit out of life is so important,” she notes. “I want to be part of that end of life transition.”
Connie is one of approximately 1,400 graduating from Georgian College this fall, 50 of which are expected to attend convocation in Owen Sound.
When asked about giving advice to future students, Connie replied: “It’s not all about your marks or about memorizing program content. What’s important is what’s in your heart – all the learning and stretching you’ll do outside of your textbooks.”