Gail Young worked for over twenty years in the meat cutting and packaging business; seven and a half years at Eastern Protein followed by thirteen and a half years with Maple Leaf. Twenty years of cutting poultry, thigh deboning, and sharpening knives came to an end in 2007 when the Canard Plant closed and Gail was laid off.
Gail Young found her way to VCLA through a friend—Joy Power, who is an instructor in the Working Learners Program. After the Canard plant shut down, Gail started in one of the GED classes. “When summer came, Joy arranged job shadowing for me at Valley Denture Services for ten months. I was hired there after that and on payroll in 2008. I still thought about getting my GED, but now I had a job and “back to school” seemed unnecessary at that time. “
It’s not easy to go to school when you are working full time. “Joy did encourage me to continue with my education and eventually I did. Joy is very strong-willed and persuasive. She doesn’t give up easily, and after 2 years I went back.”
The GED exam is an international credential comprised of five different tests covering reading and writing, social studies, science and math.
“We were five to seven students in our class. Math was a struggle. Social studies, Science and Language Arts Reading I got, but Writing and Math, – oh that was hard! I finished English at the second try and Math took three times to get. We usually had a lot of laughs in that class. Joy was always pushing us forward and even got me a volunteer tutor to help with my Math. Finally, I passed all the tests and graduated in 2012.”
“I can’t thank Joy and everyone at the office enough, really. The folks at Valley Denture Services were very good to me as well; homework had to get done in the evenings, at lunch time, or sometimes at slow times at the office.”
Gail’s days look very different now. Instead of cutting chicken she is looking after appointments, handling debit transactions and insurance claims, doing bookkeeping as well as making denture repairs. Many of these tasks involve strong math and literacy skills and she is putting her new learning to work every day and loving it. “I am happy to go to work every day, and it is certainly warmer than in the refrigerated meat plant. It’s also not as hard on your body.”