The following was written by Cheyenne, a Pathways to Education alum from Winnipeg, Manitoba. We are proud to join Cheyenne, who now works at Pathways Winnipeg, in celebrating International Day of Families.

May 15 is International Day of Families and this day means a lot to me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my family and their unconditional love.

I struggled a lot when I was growing up. I was super shy. I didn’t want to talk to anyone and was constantly nervous. But my family was always there to support me.

When I entered high school, my family encouraged me to join the Pathways Program to get some extra school support and to help me overcome my shyness.

I can still clearly remember my first day at Pathways. Like with school, I was really quiet. I was unfamiliar with the space and the people there, and didn’t know what to expect.

But I quickly realized that I had nothing to fear.

 From the very beginning, everyone at Pathways made me feel welcomed and included me in whatever they were doing. I felt like I belonged, and that made a huge difference.

They understood that I struggled to attend school not because I wasn’t interested or was a ‘bad student,’ but because my social anxiety was often too overwhelming. Pathways made me feel comfortable attending their program, which in return made me feel safe attending school.

During my last year of high school, Pathways Winnipeg’s Program Director, Darlene Klyne, took me under her wing. She saw potential in me, and still does to this day.

It’s funny thinking back to when I first met her. I remember thinking, Wow, she’s so put together and powerful. I want to be like that someday. And now, thanks to her, I am well on my way there. Darlene has made me into the leader I always knew I could be.

The truth is that I look to Darlene as my second mother—she’s someone I can go to for anything and I know she will always do her best to help me.

I am forever grateful for this program. Because just like Darlene became my second mother, Pathways became my second family.

And Pathways continues to be a huge part of my life. When I graduated from high school, I started working as a staff member at Pathways, and I still do to this day.

It’s been a really rewarding experience for me to support current students the way I was supported by Pathways during high school. I work really hard to make sure that every student who walks through our door feels a sense of belonging, support, and safety—just like I did.

Pathways changed my life, and now I’m changing my students’ lives by giving them the same support that I received. And that means everything to me.

So today, whenever people ask me about my family, I always say I have two families: my family at home and my Pathways family. I wouldn’t be where I am today in my life without either of them, and words can’t describe how grateful I am for two families.