Success comes with education

Aug 20, 2007 04:30 AM


Don't feel sorry for Joan Coy. She doesn't permit it, you see.

"I don't want this story to turn out like I am this poor, pity-party single mom," she says firmly, setting ground rules for the reporter before the interview even begins.

Such admonishment hardly seems necessary. Pity is the last thing one feels for a woman who probably should be writing the manual on how to raise successful children. She's pulled it off while coming to Canada from Jamaica alone and earning enough money to bring her three children to a new life three years later, working two jobs, then switching to shift work in hospital administration and saving enough to get out of public housing and into a home of her own.

There are many strong women like Joan Coy. But her story is timely because her second son, Evon Reid, 22, has been in the news this summer. He applied for a job with the Ontario government cabinet office, only to receive an email from a Queen's Park employee containing the offensive term "ghetto dude."

Reid, an honours student at the University of Toronto, handled himself with a grace that was a testament to his upbringing.

Coy, a self-effacing woman in her 50s, sets another condition. She wants to be clear she considers herself blessed and lucky with her kids, Richard, 30, a resort manager, and students Dionne, 27, Evon and L.J., 13. She finally gets down to talking about her family. Here are the top four tips from Coy's (unwritten) guide to single-mother parenting.

Be vigilant, very vigilant. She has lived in public housing in a rough area where a neighbour was murdered and kids got involved in crime. Curfews are to be respected.

Education, education and more education. Giving her children a good education was the primary reason she left her family in Jamaica. (She's divorced and says her ex has been supportive.) "If there is no homework from school, then read to your kids, or have them read."

Aspire to live a humble and decent life. "I'd rather die poor and with dignity than to live the high life." She heads a Christian home and doesn't have to tell her kids to go to church. This pleases her.

Put your family first and everything else will fall into place. As she sits outside, Evon and Dionne each give her a big hug and tell her where they're going.

She must be doing something right.