"We have the world at our fingertips"
14 new high school graduates are ready to take on life’s challenges


Fourteen young people whose lives have been challenging overcame the obstacles and earned their high school graduation diplomas in June.

Good Shepherd, in partnership with the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board, hosts two alternative education programs – at Notre Dame House School in downtown Hamilton and the Jeanne Scott Parent & Child Resource Centre in east Hamilton. The programs help to break down barriers to post-secondary education and employment caused by poverty, homelessness, family issues and mental illness.

The day was emotional for the graduates, their families and supporters. Their pride and sense of accomplishment were summed up by valedictorians Caitlin Coates and Marie Sinclair.

Caitlin, who plans to enroll in Humber College’s Police Foundation program, felt scared and alone when she found out she was pregnant.

“I was in no place to have a child. School was something I had never thought about, but for my daughter, I knew I had to better myself,” Caitlin told the audience.

“As young mothers, we are often told we will never amount to anything; we face a lot of stereotypes,” she said. “We are told we will never finish high school, that we will always live in poverty ... We have the odds stacked against us, but we don’t have to be another statistic ... I know that many of us have only just started our journeys, but we have the world at our fingertips; we can accomplish anything.”

Marie Sinclair found Notre Dame House when her life was riddled with road blocks.

“It means the world to me that I am here with the Notre Dame/Angela’s Place graduating class of 2017. It has been a long journey getting here. There have been so many times when I have given up on myself completely ... Having a network of people that love me and believe in me has been an imperative part in balancing out that negativity,” Marie said. “That’s what I have found at Notre Dame. Notre Dame House set to work on trying to meet my basic needs. Over the past five years I was able to find stable housing, repair the relationship with my family, stabilize my mental health and go back to school.”

Miles for Smiles, a generous group of Hamilton lawyers supporting Good Shepherd Youth Services, presented $500 bursaries to six graduates who plan to attend a post-secondary institution. All 14 graduates received a $50 cash gift from Miles for Smiles and Good Shepherd.