WATERLOO – When Lila Bruyere, 61, and Shawn Johnston, 37, receive their masters’ degrees during Wilfrid Laurier University’s fall convocation ceremony Oct. 31, they will become the first mother-son duo to graduate from the same program in the university’s history.
Whats more, their journeys to this milestone are even more remarkable.
Growing up on the Couchiching First Nation, Johnston was a drug and alcohol addict, and dropped out of high school at age 16. His mother was also an alcoholic and grew up in the residential school system where her instructors physically abused her.
After getting their lives back on track and earning bachelor degrees — Bruyere in her 40s as a single mother with three sons — they each decided to pursue a master’s degree and together enrolled in Laurier’s Faculty of Social Work Aboriginal Field of Study program.
“It’s so important we acknowledge the success stories in the Aboriginal community,” said Johnston on the milestone. “I think it’s really important that youth hear these stories and think, ‘Hey, if they can go to school, so can I.’”
Bruyere and Johnston both hope to give back to the Aboriginal community. Johnston plans to work with
Aboriginal youth and is considering a PhD, while Bruyere hopes to work residential school survivors.
Laurier will hold its fall convocation ceremonies Oct. 30 and 31 at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex.
As of Oct. 22, approximately 1,254 students had met all program requirements and qualified to graduate.
Laurier expects to confer 381 graduate degrees, 865 undergraduate degrees and eight diplomas.
The university will also grant an honorary degree to accomplished business leader Maureen Sabia, chair of the board at Canadian Tire Corporation.