Nova Scotia

'She's the perfect role model': Single mom graduates from high school 20 years later

A Nova Scotian woman who failed high school by four points returned to get her diploma — 20 years later. 

Tracy MacDonald hopes to spend the rest of her career in the classroom helping students like herself

Tracy MacDonald fell back in love with the classroom and wants to build a career helping students. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

A Nova Scotia woman who failed high school by four points has returned to get her diploma — twenty years later. 

Tracy MacDonald said she worked hard at high school as a teenager, but had an unstable home situation that caused her to struggle academically. 

"When I was 16, my mother left a note and told me she didn't want no part of me, for me to go live with my father. At that point, my father was a bit of an alcoholic, so I knew it wasn't the best situation for me," MacDonald says. 

She got a lawyer and 'emancipated' herself, a legal term meaning the teen was no longer the responsibility of her parents. 

She finished high school and thought she would receive a diploma, but later found out she had 46 per cent in English, a failing grade, and couldn't graduate. She moved on with her life, but never forgot about high school. 

"I thought about it all the time. I've always wanted to have my Grade 12. 'Maybe I'll go back,'" she says. 

But the time was never right. She is a lone parent to five children, including four young ones at home, and has worked at all kinds of jobs to pay the bills: a lobster boat, Tim Hortons and a call centre. 

Many challenges

She didn't like how the off-hours kept her away from her children after their school day, and then she lost her child care. 

"At that point I had to leave my job so I could take care of my children.... And the only other option was for me to go to school to try to further my education so I could get into college so I could be more than just nothing."

Sonya Eddy helped MacDonald earn her English credits and is also helping her write her life story. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

MacDonald enrolled at the Queens Adult High School in Liverpool, N.S., and has spent the last year earning that missing English credit. She won a Literacy Nova Scotia bursary in the process. 

Sonya Eddy has been her teacher and says MacDonald's story is uplifting. 

"She's the perfect role model because she has every reason not to come back, but she comes back anyway, and she has this great success. And I see a lot of potential in her. I think that she's a student that should be telling her story to other adults and encouraging them, because it's inspirational to hear," Eddy says. 

MacDonald earned her missing English credit and graduated in June. She hopes to study to become a teacher's assistant — and someday a teacher. She already works as a substitute assistant at Queens Middle School. 

"And it's amazing and I love helping the children. They're good kids. Some of them need help, a little bit more so than others, but that's what my job is for."

MacDonald is also writing a book about her life, and hopes to publish it to inspire other people to learn it's never too late to get an education. "I'm very proud of myself, because I've come a long way. I'm excited. I can't wait."


Jon Tattrie


Jon Tattrie is a journalist and author in Nova Scotia.