Lesley’s story: from home-school to health science
Meeting Lesley Miller, you’re immediately struck by her intelligent eyes, quiet confidence and strong, healthy demeanor. You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she’s studying health and nutritional science.
Like many young people diving into post-secondary education for the first time, Lesley’s face lights up as she talks about her chosen field—the biochemistry of foods and how diet relates to the aging of cells and chronic diseases. Speak to her for a few minutes, and you can’t help but share her anticipation to start a Bachelor of Science program in Food, Nutrition and Health at the University of British Columbia this fall.
Unlike many students, however, Lesley’s path did not follow a straight line from high school to university. In fact, her educational journey took its first of many twists and turns before she was even old enough to choose the course.
Out of the system
With mixed feelings, Lesley describes growing up in Ohio where she and her brother were home-schooled. Even though her father had worked as a schoolteacher, Lesley remembers her parents disapproving of many aspects of the American public school system, and wanting to give their kids the freedom to focus on their own talents and interests. “There was method to the madness,” she says.
Even today in the state of Ohio, however, home-schooled students do not automatically obtain a recognized high school diploma. And so, following a lifelong love of books, reading and school supplies, at the age of 17, Lesley finished studying without any official documents or transcripts. While she still had the option to write equivalency tests and obtain a GED, Lesley remembers being confused about the process, as well as insecure about entering an academic institution for the first time in her life.
Food for thought
While still in her early 20’s, Lesley ended up moving to Vancouver with her husband who works in the film industry. “We just packed up the car and said ‘Here we go! We’re moving to Canada!’”
Only a few years into her new Canadian life, however, Lesley’s father passed away, much too young, from cancer. According to Lesley, her father’s death had a major impact on the whole family. While there was no way to know what specifically caused her father’s illness, Lesley, her husband and her mother all experienced it as a wake-up call to drastically improve their food and lifestyle choices. It was then that Lesley also developed her passion to study the relationship between food systems, nutrition and health. “It changed me forever,” she says.
With a newfound drive for learning, Lesley immediately began looking into Bachelor of Science programs specializing in nutrition. When talking to university advisors, however, Lesley soon learned that most admissions systems had no way of accommodating someone without official high school records to submit. “They weren’t really sure what to do with me!” she says. “And so, I came to VCC.”
After speaking with a VCC program advisor, however, Lesley says she was instantly encouraged and relieved. “It was the first time that I didn’t have to explain myself,” she says. “Everybody here comes from a different place. There are so many types of students, filling in holes, taking the classes they need. I just felt accepted.”