Durham College was not Sonja Bursach’s first choice.
A couple years back, Bursach was attending a different college and she felt she wasn’t getting the accommodations that she needed. This would go on to affect her mental health.
“I ended up taking a year off. I did the first year there and then it just wasn’t working out,” says Bursach.
Bursach needed proper support to restart her post-secondary education. That support was found in Durham College’s RISE program.
RISE stands for Reach, Include, Support and Elevate. The program helps students transition into post-secondary by overcoming whatever barriers they face.
Sonja Bursach is an excellent example of the success of this program.
During her year off, she got involved with Ontario Shores, a public hospital that offers a range of specialized assessment and treatment services.
This is where Bursach learned to manage anxiety and depression as well as different coping mechanisms. Bursach says the therapy was different than what she was used to.
“It was a lot of group-based therapy which I wasn’t used to. I’ve only ever had one-on-one so that was definitely a new thing but I really liked it,” says Bursach.
After three months at Ontario Shores, Bursach was looking to transition back to school in the fall of 2019. The vocational services at Ontario Shores helped Bursach prepare for College.
It was sometime early in the new year when Bursach was first connected with Shauna Moore of the RISE program. This was set up by Ontario Shores and has put Bursach on the path to being successful.
“We’ve been working together just to ease my anxieties about starting school again and just getting prepared and organized,” says Bursach.
Moore was able to help Bursach with questions about getting back into post-secondary. At the time, Bursach was looking into a few colleges but later that spring she was accepted to Durham College.
Part of the reason she was confident in her decision to attend Durham College was because of the workshops RISE offered before the school year started. These helped Bursach get prepared.
“Sonja was always very driven, very focused and organized,” says Moore. “She was very proactive and not afraid to ask questions.”
Bursach had all the tools she needed to be successful and now with the proper support, she is succeeding in her first year here at Durham College.
“They’re still helping me with any questions I have, any support I need. I still do check-ins with them just to make sure I’m on the right track with my schoolwork. They’ve been really helpful,” says Bursach.
Bursach is in the Social Service Worker program and she feels it’s a good fit for her. Shauna Moore is still there to help.
“She ultimately is like my back-up. She’s there to help me if I need it,” says Bursach.
Bursach says she may not be in this position if not for the RISE program.
“I’m now doing a lot better with being successful, because I had them (RISE) they were able to help me get over the anxiety of starting post-secondary again,” says Bursach.
The support offered by RISE has helped Bursach get to where she wants to be.
Bursach has some words of advice for people who have barriers to overcome to get to post-secondary.
“They (RISE) are very supportive and will help you get through what you need to get through,” says Bursach.
Sonja Bursach is now a successful member of the Durham College community. She just needed that extra support to rise.