Workers' Educational Association Illawarra gave Stephannie Jonovska's late mother back her "love of life" and now she volunteers to show her appreciation.
Mrs Jonovska said she took of the voluntary position as deputy chair of the WEA Illawarra board in dedication to her mother Mara, who started English classes at the age of 64.
"My parents came from Macedonia to Australia in the 1950s with not much in their suitcases, and not much education," she said.
"My mum learnt to speak English by working in a cafe but she could not read or write it.
"My dad Vane worked in the steelworks and taught himself to read and write in English but could not speak it very well.
"So neither could help me with my homework ... although they both told me that 'education is something that no-one can take away from you'."
Mrs Jonovska said her parents lived a full life but when her father died in 1998, her mother lost her passion and energy.
"I saw my mum's love of life disappear - she started wearing black, cut her hair severely and said she felt very alone," she said.
"Then one day she proudly announced that she was going to start English classes at WEA - after only two years of schooling in Macedonia, at 64 she was going back to class."
What she learnt in those classes not only helped her practically - she could fill in forms and so on - but reconnected her with the world around her.
"What she got most out of the classes were the friends that she made, and the structure to her day that had gone when dad died," Mrs Jonovska said.
"I saw her love of life return and she became a larger-than-life personality at WEA, and she was a stronger, more energetic person because of it."
Mrs Jonovska said after her mother's death in 2006, she decided to join the board of the community training organisation.
"I was voted in at the 2010 AGM in the same room in which we'd celebrated mum's English class graduations," she said.
"It's my way of saying thank you to the organisation that gave a lot to my family - and I hope to let others know of the many benefits of lifelong learning."