One young person’s inspirational journey through SelfDesign®.

Olivia is a person who understands that when you can’t go over it and you can’t go under it, you must go through it. With great resilience she has paved her own path – marching right through difficulties and barriers – even using them to her advantage to sharpen her purpose and her creativity.

This purposeful young adult, now 19 years-old, commenced from SelfDesign in 2019 with the Adult Dogwood Diploma, after having started her journey with SelfDesign in Grade 1. She is already a successful artist, teaching art out of her home studio as well as virtually, and having her work featured in Vancouver’s Undercovered Art Festival in November 2019.

Olivia feels that doing her education through SelfDesign accommodated her needs and allowed her to thrive in a way that other environments may not have.

“When I was almost 10 I got diagnosed with dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia,” Olivia says. “In addition to that, I have heightened sensory issues, an anxiety disorder and ADHD. I imagine all of that would have made it really hard for me if I had to go to a regular school.”

SelfDesign’s adaptability and learner-focused mandate allowed Olivia to find her gifts and passions and truly succeed at them. Doing the Adult Dogwood Diploma in her high school years allowed Olivia to do the courses on her own timeline and in a flexible order that suited her needs.

“One of the things I found most supportive about SelfDesign was being able to learn based on what I liked and felt motivated by,” she says. “That was a huge thing. For example, when I started with SelfDesign I lived near a beach. A whole bunch of my learning that first year was about the ocean. I got to look at the rocks and read about fish, you know, just dive into that world.”

Eventually, a product of that self-led learning was Olivia’s love of creative writing. One of her favourite high school courses was a creative writing course which helped her with her book – the novel that she has written and wants to get published.

“I never made so much progress on my novel as I did in that course, because the educator allowed us the freedom to work on our own projects,” Olivia says. “He would give us the option of applying the assignment to our own personal work and he offered specific insights into our projects. I made a lot of progress that way.”

Most recently, Olivia has been diagnosed with endometriosis and is giving her attention to resolving this. Her strategy in life is to gain strength and momentum from the things that are going well for her, rather than get dragged down by the things that are not.

“It’s really easy to fall into a pattern of thinking of, ‘Oh man I’m in this health dilemma right now’,” says Olivia. “But to counter that I try to focus on my paintings, my art show and whatever other successful and creative things I have going on.”

“My art is an expression of something I have gone through or am going through in my life,” she continues. “The experience turns into the creation. There is always a story behind it.”

Another SelfDesign highlight for Olivia was the lasting friendships she made with other students that she met through the learning pods.

“I started doing pod learning in Grade 10,” she says. “I really liked being part of a group. I didn’t feel like an outcast.”

“We all fit in with each other, even though none of us fit into boxes. I think it was nice there was not a lot of cliques either. The people that had stuff in common probably talked more, but there was no bullying or teasing. Everyone was very accepting, which I really appreciated.”

Olivia continues to collaborate with these friends on creative projects.

In addition to amazing peers to network with, Olivia got to develop an incredibly deep and lasting bond with her learning consultant, Rana. Rana was Olivia’s learning consultant from Grade 1 right through to commencement. In fact, Rana ended up taking more training in order to be able to stay with Olivia in the high school program.

“Honestly, she’s pretty much like a part of our family now,” Olivia says. “Like when she goes on vacation she comes to the area where we live and we go do fun stuff together!”

“I met Olivia when she was six years old and playing princess dress-up with a friend,” Rana says. “What a joy, honour and privilege it has been to watch her grow up into the amazing person she is. Our relationship has shifted and deepened through the years and I feel that’s one of the many benefits of SelfDesign: we can watch ‘our kids’ grow. I know that we will be meeting up for many, many years to come – at her art shows or on the beaches of Tofino.”

“Rana is really great to be around,” Olivia says. “She’s happy and she always takes such an interest in what’s going on in my life. She’s not just a teacher – she actually cares about you. It’s nice having a teacher who’s there for you.”

It’s amazing what can result from creating a supportive learning environment that is shaped and personalized to the individual learner. The ability to forge pathways where barriers stand in the way, is a mark of true resilience and brilliance and Olivia holds this ability with true grace.