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B.C. mom inspires sons by graduating from high school 23 years after dropping out


Channi Gonzales will never forget the day she had to have that tough talk with her sons about school.

“They were both kind of grappling to keep up and stay afloat,” Channi says.

Her boys — Deshaun and Demani — were dealing with a number of personal challenges, including the loss of a couple of close family members.

But they also questioned their mom’s lecture about the value of education.

“My brother was the one who said, ‘Well you didn’t graduate [Mom] and we’re fine.” Deshaun recalls.

While the boys didn’t realize how much their single mom was actually struggling, they did know Channi had dropped out of school when she was 14.

“That was a slap in the face,” Channi says. “I was like, ‘I need to do something proactive to show them that education is important.’”

While Channi considered how to move forward with her sons, she couldn’t help but look back on her own childhood.

“My parents were addicts,” Channi says. “But I had more love than most kids.”

But love couldn’t stop their family from enduring the ravages of addiction, poverty, and homelessness, which forced Channi to start working three jobs instead of going to school.

“I always wanted to go back [to school],” Channi says. “But life kept happening.”

While Channi experienced too many bad things over the next few years, she also welcomed two of the greatest, and was determined to do what was best for her boys.

“I was like, ‘If I go back [to school] and get A’s and B’s will you try to match me?'” Channi recalls asking her sons. “‘Can we do this together?’”

“I was like, ‘Yeah.’ Because I didn’t think she actually would,” Deshaun recalls with a laugh. “Oh I was wrong. I was so wrong.”

Channi returned to school 23 years after she left.

She juggled caring for her kids, doing her homework with them, and facing her fears of failure.

“There were days I went to class and I was crying to my teacher, ‘I can’t do this,’” Channi recalls.

While Channi’s teachers inspired her to persevere, after completing enough courses to finally graduate, she inspired them to award her with four bursaries and honour her as valedictorian.

“They helped me gain back my confidence,” Channi said in her valedictorian speech. “And regain my potential.”

Deshaun and Demani attended the ceremony and say they couldn’t be more proud of their mom’s determination and accomplishments.

“She’s awesome,” Demani smiles.

“She’s my best friend,” Deshaun adds.

“I had always been just kind of satisfied with what I had, which was the least,” Channi says. “And now I have a taste of I can do.”

While Channi is planning to go to college to pursue a career in health, and her boys are proud of their own academic improvements, they’re all grateful for the life lesson they taught each other.

“The only time you fail is when you fail yourself,” Deshaun says. “No matter what can hit you in life, you can bounce back.” Top Stories

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