The Hub Bonita Bjornson: Fulfilling a promise to myself
Transforming Lives: Learners at AU

Bonita Bjornson: Fulfilling a promise to myself

By: Bonita Bjornson

Transforming Lives: Learners at AU is a testimonial series written by Athabasca University (AU) learners and alumni who want to share how AU has helped shape their lives.

It’s a space to thank the people who provided help and support along the journey, and to share insight on how learning at AU has transformed their lives, careers, families, and communities.

These stories are worth shouting from the rooftops! Do you have an inspiring story to share? Email us! We’d love to hear it.


Fulfilling a promise to my 18-year-old self was made possible with AU.

When I turned 16, I was attending high school, and while selecting courses for the next school year found out that my parents had discussed me dropping out of school to work as a housecleaner. Thankfully, my mom believed that I should earn my high school degree and that my future need not be limited.

I had always dreamed of studying history and earning a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree, so I filledin applications to universities and applied for student loans. I was ineligible for student loans from because my family supported private Christian schools. I had always worked on tobacco farms so I had managed to save most of my earnings, but it wasn’t enough for a degree. I decided to get a two-year diploma from a community college and promised myself that I would earn that BA in history!

Fast forward to the late 1980s. I’d moved to Edmonton and was working full time and registered at AU to earn that degree! Then life threw me a series of curveballs: health issues stopped me in my tracks. Then I met and married my husband, and we had a couple of children. Between having to work part-time due to health reasons, and then deciding to stay home for a few years with the littles, there was no money to pay for courses. I didn’t forget my promise, but it definitely got put on the back burner. 

Our children were in high school and often heard my story. They both pursued post-secondary education and earned degrees. I began working full-time and I decided that I should contact AU to see what would be involved in earning a BA in history. It soon became clear that it was doable—and now I could afford it! With my husband and children’s encouragement I got to work on one course; or sometimes two courses, at a time!!    

Bonita wearing a red t-shirt standing infront of an RV
Bonita Bjornson

The push to finish

Thankfully, I love learning. There were times when I wanted to quit; in fact, with three courses to go I almost did. A close friend had such an incredulous reaction when I suggested quitting. My argument that it was ridiculous for a woman in her late 50s to be bothering with a BA, which I felt had no real value with regards to my career was pushed aside. It brought me back to how devastated I was reading the rejection letter from Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) that ended the dream of earning a BA back in 1979.   

So, I continued. I wrote my final exam and got my marks within a week. I was done. It was hard to imagine, so I sent an email to Program Advising to make sure I had completed the courses needed. It was so hard to believe, I didn’t tell my husband or children for a couple of days and when I did, they were so happy for me (and themselves, I am sure they were sick of me always studying and reading, even on vacation)!  I let the news sinkin, sent in an application to graduate, and recently told my co-workers. They are also excited for me. My parents are so proud: they’re telling everyone in my hometown about it. I could not have kept my promise to myself without AU, and for that I am forever thankful.

  • December 11, 2020
Guest Blog from:
Bonita Bjornson