Tyler Finley – Okanagan College
Every challenge presents a new opportunity and for Okanagan College’s Mare McHale, returning to school last September was yet another twist in 2020 that she hadn’t planned but also an opportunity to invest in her future.
“So much has changed this year, but having time at home means reflecting on where our family could be after the pandemic passes. In that lens, going back to class just made sense,” said McHale.
“When I was taking those first steps of applying to OC, I was in contact with about five or six staff members and every single one was super helpful and kind. I have been blown away by the service and availability.”
McHale is a former journalist and radio announcer who owns her own social media marketing company, Redhead Mare Media. While she has been a Youtuber for several years, she was thrust even further into the spotlight when her husband, Jeremy, took his own life in 2017. This tragic loss threw her into a spiral of survival as a widow and single mom of a son with special needs.
She published a book in January of this year about her family’s journey over the last five years. Titled Finding Your Cape: How to Course Correct and Achieve Greatness When Things Don’t Go As Planned, the book has become an Amazon bestseller in the grief, mental health and happiness categories.
In the midst of her mental health advocacy work though, McHale found herself wanting to draw upon more than just her own experiences.
“There is value in having an education. Credentials demonstrate that you understand the foundation of the issues,” she said, adding that people often turn to her for information and advice given her experiences.
“I always refer people to their doctor and the health resources that are in our community, but I also want the knowledge and coping tools that the professionals have for myself.”
She is working toward becoming a registered psychologist and is completing her first two years of university studies at Okanagan College with an Associate of Arts Degree. Once that program is complete, she will transfer her credits to complete a Bachelor’s of Social Work, followed by a counselling psychology master’s degree.
It is a long educational road to take, which will likely involve graduate school as well. But in McHale style, she is taking the changes in stride – laughing about being a mature student who needs a back pillow and ergonomic mouse pad.
“Studying at home gives me the flexibility to be available for my son when he needs me, and my instructors are giving us creative assignments to showcase our learning. I critiqued a pop culture song in my Gender Studies class and just produced a video for another assignment,” she said.
“Going back to school has been a great experience. I wish I could complete all of my studies at OC.”
For those looking to follow in McHale’s footsteps, Okanagan College’s Associate of Arts Degree transfers to 11 different universities in B.C. alone. Find out about the Associate of Arts here.