Coleen hails from Tempie, West Coast Berbice, where she attended #29 School which provided an extended education from the primary level through to the Fourth Form secondary level. She graduated in 1975. Steering away from the suggested path of a career as a Home Economics teacher, she took Sewing lessons as a private student from 1975-76, then entered New Amsterdam Technical Institute’s Secretarial Science program. None of these career paths appealed to her.
She may be regarded as a pioneer in finally seeking out a non-traditional career in AgriMechanics, the only female in the two-year program, graduating in 1978. She was hired by GuyMine at Linden in the Mackenzie District only to find that gender discrimination prevented her from working as a Mechanic. She worked as a clerk in the Tool Shop which position included washing machine parts. Disappointed in the lack of appropriate work opportunity, she was forced to refashion her career plans after a mere five months at GuyMine.
Returning home to Tempie and learning about job opportunities for Drafting Teachers, she immediately enrolled in a crash course in Technical Drawing in the Industrial Arts Dept.’s Adult Education program offered by the Ministry of Education at her Alma Mater #29 School. She was then able to teach this subject at Belladrum Community High School,which catered to students with Learning Disabilities and Late Developers, from 1979-1984.
Ever in search of new skills, she gained a Certificate in Youth Work, offered under the auspices of the Commonwealth Youth Program at the the University of Guyana, travelling Friday evening from Berbice to Georgetown for a full slate of classes on the weekend, over the two-year period, 1979-1981.
She moved residence to the East Bank, Georgetown in 1984. Teaching part-time in Agricola, she fitted in attendance at the In-Service Training Program, Teachers’ Training College, Turkeyen Campus, Georgetown, from 1984-1986 and gained her professional teacher’s qualification. Her last upgrading was in Remedial Education, a crash course again at the Teachers’ Training College, where she was the youngest participant in the group.
In 1986-87, she continued to teach Drawing, Woodworking, and Metal Work. She was promoted to the post of Acting Senior Mistress for the Remedial Education Division for a short while at Belladrum Community High School. Her stellar ascent in this highly specialised area of Education was capped with her appointment as the Head of the Industrial Arts Department at Bygaval Multilateral School, Mahaica, 1992 to 1995.
Immigration to Canada mirrored the experience of so many foreign-trained professionals in obtaining parallel appointments in their area of expertise. For a few years, she made do with survival jobs, finally working part-time at Hudson’s Bay, 1997-2008.
Coleen’s life took a turn in an unexpected direction after she was rendered disabled for employment by an unfortunate accident. Despite her daily pain, she lives to serve others, volunteering at her local Anglican Church’s March Break Camps and Sunday School. She assists youth in an after-school Public Speaking class (AFPY), and in a Home-Work club.
By any standards, Coleen stands out as a pioneer in her choice of vocational training and her capacity to persevere into new areas of study, all the while increasing her professional capacity in every field of her endeavour. She makes Guyanese women proud.