When Jenna Tulak received her acceptance letter to Okanagan College Vernon campus, she remembers screaming for joy and calling everyone she knew to share the good news.
Tulak, 31, had wanted to pursue higher education since graduating high school but a lack of funds and social anxiety kept her from pursuing her goal.
Instead of going to school, Tulak struggled to find a job, working a series of minimum wage roles for more than 10 years. The experience was difficult for Tulak, who says she often felt invisible. During this time, Tulak’s mother passed away. It was this major loss that emboldened her to start making changes in her life.
“I couldn’t take the stress of being insignificant anymore. I decided I was going to make my mother proud and I was going to go to school,” she said.
Tulak was nervous about starting school again, having been fearful of social situations in the past. However, her worries were quickly abated once she started attending classes.
“I started to love every moment of it. I started to make friends when I’d never had friends before and that was wonderful,” said Tulak. “After I finished my first year, I thought, ‘Wow, this was the best decision I had ever made.’
“I think coming back to school saved my life in many ways that I can’t even begin to fathom.”
Tulak also discovered what she wanted to specialize in: creative writing.
“I want to be a teacher, and I want to come back and teach creative writing here because it was so powerful. And, I know I have to do that for the next generation to show them that they have a voice, and we need their voices.”
Tulak has been funding her education mostly through student loans. She recently also received a student award from donors to the Okanagan College Foundation.
“The support of the donors has taken the load off and you can focus on your studies and allow yourself to excel rather than thinking are you going to be able to feed yourself,” said Tulak.
“Having the support of the donors has been amazing. The fact that they’ve helped and they’ve chosen me to be helped is more than words can express.”
Tulak is currently finishing her diploma in writing and publishing with plans to attend UBC Okanagan in the fall, where she will pursue a bachelor’s of arts in creative writing.