Photo: Ryan Broda, Broda Photography
Climbing the mountain to build a future
By Emma Keeler-Dugas
Six years ago, during what was a very dark point in Cheryl-Ann Henning’s life, she returned to SFU in a bid to create a new future for herself and her son, Ben.
She had just endured, and lost, a seven-year custody and guardianship battle for Ben, as well as her home and business, after leaving her marriage to protect herself and her son from a life of domestic abuse.
“I knew that despite not having custody or guardianship of my only child, surviving this loss was key to creating a future for both myself and Ben,” she says. “I had to find a way to support him.”
She reached out to SFU in 2011 and, to her surprise, found she only had five courses remaining to complete the BA in psychology that she had begun in 1987. She had studied full-time and part-time over a period of nine years before deferring her studies in 1996 to work overseas, marry and start a family.
Returning to university and travelling up Burnaby Mountain to campus became symbolic, she says now.
“Internally I was climbing my own mountain, overcoming fear and despair to build a brighter future for both myself and my son.”
Henning completed her degree in 2012, and hasn’t looked back.
Today, she us the supervisor of student recruitment and transition at Capilano University and now lives with Ben, aged 16.
As well, Henning is passionate about supporting causes dedicated to improving the lives of women and youth. She regularly volunteers her time to non-profit organizations that supported both her and her son during their darkest times.
“SFU is truly the engaged university, and taught me how to become more engaged in my community as well as the importance of giving back,” she says.
This past year, she was chosen as spokeswoman for Dress for Success’ IMPACT 360 Fundraising Gala. The organization provides women with both professional attire and workshops that prepare them to enter the professional workforce.
“After you graduate, you start your journey,” she says. “You have no idea whose life you’re touching, and no idea where you might end up, but if you open your heart and open your mind, all things are possible.”