How going back to school helped an Island man piece his life back together

After dropping out of high school and enduring years of hardship, Alex Watts is now working at the Community Legal Information Association for the summer and is set to begin the legal administration program at Holland College.

'When it got to the high school level, as a lot of people do, I just got overwhelmed'

Alex Watts was recently named the 2018 P.E.I. recipient of the Council of the Federation Literacy Award. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

In less than five weeks the new school year begins on P.E.I. and after a difficult decade away from the classroom, 26-year-old Alex Watts is excited to be heading back.

After dropping out of high school and enduring years of hardship, Watts is now working at the Community Legal Information Association for the summer and is set to begin the legal administration program at Holland College.

Watts was also recently named the 2018 P.E.I. recipient of the Council of the Federation Literacy Award.

Although he was a "little shocked" to learn he had won, he said it's "a great honour to receive the award."

Watts's story begins, however, nearly 10 years ago. He struggled in the classroom throughout his young life, he said, and when he got to high school, he couldn't handle it.

"When I got to the high school level, as a lot of people do, I just got overwhelmed," he said. "I had a bit of a rough home life as well. So all of those combined elements were really the catalyst for me deciding to leave school."

'Perceived myself as this self-made tragedy'

At 17, he moved into a bachelor apartment and spent many years working for low wages, jumping from job to job.

After a while going through the motions he shut himself in, not wanting to see or speak to anyone in his life.

I just kept to myself and really perceived myself as this self-made tragedy.— Alex Watts

"I missed a lot of milestones in my life.… Not having those certain moments in your life, I think, can really bring your self-worth down," he said.

"I just kept to myself and really perceived myself as this self-made tragedy."

That is until a social worker met with him and set him on the right path, he said.

'I still have a lot to do'

Step-by-step he dug himself out of the hole he was in, starting school again and doing well on assignments and tests.

It was a process, but slowly he completed his GED and several upgrading classes. He overcame his past and is now enrolled at Holland College this fall.

"It more or less goes from a situation where you're more or less like 'how am I going to eat this week' … to 'when's my student loan coming in,'" he said.

"It's really an amazing, great feeling."

He credits a lot of his growth to working at the Community Legal Information Association in Charlottetown, and said he wants to become a paralegal one day.

But in the meantime, he said, "I still have a lot to do."

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning

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