Profiles on Fleming College’s Valedictorians (2012)

Below are profiles on the 2012 Fleming College Valedictorians. The following pieces can also be viewed on the Fleming College Facebook page with photos of each graduate here (click on each thumbnail photo).

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Cameron Berry, Health Information Management (HIM) graduate and a 2012 Valedictorian

On his decision to attend Fleming: In 1993/1994 I attended university for two years for Honours Chemistry, and I dropped out. Then, recently, I went back to university for Computing and Information Systems, and was there for three semesters before switching to Fleming. Coming to Fleming was a change of course, a career adjustment, for me. At university, I looked at my program and thought that, at the end, I’ll have a Bachelor of Science, and I couldn’t see the career potential with that; I looked at HIM and saw how they blended the technology with health care, and that appealed to me.

On his student experience: The first thing I noticed about Fleming was how nice the people are here. The program itself was challenging, because I came from a construction background – not a medical background – so I didn’t know the terminology, so that was a learning curb. I actually wasn’t 100% sure about the program until I went on my first placement, and at the end of that two week placement I was sold, because I understood why we were learning what we were learning in school—it was all practical stuff you can use in the field! On top of school, I have children, so I had to learn how to balance the time for school work and for helping the kids with their homework. It was also financially challenging, but going back to school as a parent is easier then you think and it goes by fast! I would recommend going back to school, because it’s important to enjoy what you’re doing, and if you don’t enjoy it then you need to change.

On being Valedictorian: I feel honoured that they chose me. It makes me feel pleased that the position isn’t just based on marks—it’s based on marks and giving back to the college community. I didn’t have the highest mark in the class, but I was an ‘A’ student, and I volunteered on multiple projects, served on a few committees and was a peer tutor. And I’m excited to graduate, because HIM opens the doors to so many paths!

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Katie Bigras, Ecosystem Management Technology graduate and 2012 Frost Campus Valedictorian

On her decision to attend Fleming: I chose Fleming’s Frost Campus over other colleges because it had a loggersports team. After graduating from the Forestry program, I enrolled in the Ecosystem Management program as a personal interest and to continue playing loggersports for another year. Little did I know that the Ecosystem Management program would open my eyes and intensify my passion for our world. In the Fall, I will be attending Trent University through the articulation agreement with the two institutions.

On her student experience: I have been at Fleming College for four years and the truth is that Fleming College’s Frost Campus is completely unique in comparison to other colleges. I have made some amazing friendships that will last forever; I played on many sports teams, including rugby, loggersports, cross country, curling and countless intramurals; I also had the opportunity to be involved with the Student Association as both the Director of Student Activities and Affairs in 2009 and the Director of Athletics in 2012. In my second year of Ecosystem Management, I had the opportunity to do a work placement in Costa Rica with eight of my peers and two amazing faculty members, and this year I went to Washington for a conference with 49 of my favourite people on Earth. We even got to organize our own conference! I know all of my classmates by first and last name, I know and am comfortable speaking with faculty in and outside of my program—the staff are unbelievable! At Frost Campus, everyone seems to work together and it is a positive atmosphere to be in; doors are constantly opening, opportunities are continuously presenting themselves. This snippet of information hardly scratches the surface of my experience at Fleming College—I loved it! From day one, meeting my first friend at a campus bonfire, to my last day, hugging another friend goodbye 26 times before I could leave, Fleming College has been a ride that I am so glad I took. Throughout my time at Fleming College, I have grown as an individual immensely. The education I am leaving this institution with is top notch, but the memories and friendships I have made along the way are irreplaceable.

On her employment: I am a Forest Firefighter for the MNR in Dryden, Ont. This is my second summer working there, and I love it!

On being Valedictorian: I feel privileged. There are some extremely unique people and brilliant minds at Fleming College’s Frost Campus, and to be asked to give the valedictorian speech at our convocation amongst my peers is a true honour.

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Richard Branch, Computer Engineering Technology graduate and a 2012 Valedictorian

On his decision to attend Fleming: I had been interested in computers and science for some time. I worked at a call centre as the Supervisor of Client Operations, doing troubleshooting with mobile phones, and I wanted to expand my knowledge because I couldn’t progress at a call centre. So I looked at available schools and, through my research, I found that Fleming had one of the more diverse programs.

On his student experience: It was a challenge, but a very fun challenge. I found that my teachers and peers were very welcoming. Overall, the program I chose was very intense— there were a lot of late nights and assignments. The program was very well-structured and very enjoyable.

On being Valedictorian: I was surprised to learn I was Valedictorian, because, from what I heard, I’m only the third person from a computer program to be named Valedictorian. I was very honoured to be chosen for the position, but terrified to be speaking in front of such a large group of people– computer nerds aren’t known for being extroverts.

On his post-grad plans: I’m currently employed as a Network and PC Support Specialist for the summer at Peterborough City Hall. In September, I will be going to Trent for my Bachelor of Science through Fleming’s articulation agreement.

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Shannon Culkeen, Personal Support Worker graduate and a 2012 Valedictorian

On her choice to attend Fleming: I attended York University for Fine Arts and had the typical story of those with degrees—I got out of school and was stuck underemployed with minimum wage jobs. I had an interview for a personal support worker position and I didn’t get the job, but I saw the opportunity in the field and thought it would be a good way to change directions. I looked into the Fleming program and applied online three weeks before the program started.

On her student experience: Everyone was so friendly and welcoming that instantly I felt at ease. On the first day, a random stranger helped me find my way to class! My program was the best—it was really concentrated the whole year. It was a perfect mixture between theory and lots and lots of practise. I got hired two days before the school term ended, so I started working at St. Joseph’s at Fleming as a PSW last week!

On being Valedictorian: I feel so surprised and honoured and delighted, and so grateful. To have worked hard in the program and be graduating, I was already excited. Then to get the phone call, it was icing on a really awesome cake!

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Ashley Dolan, Business Administration – Marketing graduate and a 2012 Valedictorian

On her decision to attend Fleming: I completed a general business program two years ago and decided that I wanted to continue my education in marketing. I started researching different schools in Ontario and came across the marketing program at Fleming. I decided to contact the program coordinator, Russell Turner, and was so impressed with his enthusiasm and willingness to help. I also knew that Peterborough was a place I’d love to live and decided right then that Fleming was the choice for me.

On her student experience: Overall, it’s been awesome. The sense of community at Fleming is so comforting and makes it a lot of fun. The teachers really get to know their students and it’s great to always see so many familiar faces as you walk down the halls.

On being Valedictorian: I feel humbled, and at the same time very thrilled. It’s truly an honour and a privilege to speak on behalf of such a great group of graduates.

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Amany Johnson, Social Service Worker graduate and a 2012 Valedictorian

On her decision to attend Fleming: I always wanted to be a social worker, but I was working at a bank for seven years, and I just decided that it was my time to try. I heard Fleming was a great college, with smaller class sizes and lots of one-on-one time with teachers.

On her student experience: I loved my experience here. The best thing about it was my teachers! They helped me, emailed me. They are really dedicated– they care and they want us to do good. English is a second language for me, so I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but the instructors were the key for making me succeed. I went from almost dropping out to a 4.0 GPA!

On being Valedictorian: I’m so honoured and touched. It made my graduation more special. I didn’t know what a Valedictorian was, so I had to Google it and find out. I’m really honoured and I don’t think I would have been chosen at another school, because you have to give a speech and with my accent and having English as a second language… But that’s the great thing about Fleming, Fleming cares about my work, not about my accent. It’s a very diverse school.

On her post-grad plans: I have two jobs, one is at Durham Mental Health, which is where I had my placement, and the other one is at Treatment Foster Care. So I have two part-time jobs and in September I’ll also be going to York University for my Bachelor of Social Work. I’ll be entering the second year, so I’ll have three more years. I’m scared, and excited. My daughter, Sandi, said, “Remember you were scared to start college too, and look where you are now!” And I’ve been pushed and encouraged a lot by my teachers, who believe in me. So if they believe I can do it, then that is what I will do.

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Emily Mackie, Law and Security Administration – Security and Risk Management graduate and a 2012 Valedictorian

On her decision to attend Fleming: I decided to attend Fleming because the Risk Management program seemed to be one of a kind; I was really fond of the vast job opportunities that are available upon completion of the program. Peterborough is also relatively close to home for me, so I liked the fact that I could come home on most weekends and holidays in order to maintain my position on my local fire department—I am a part-time fire fighter for the Municipality of Highlands East.

On her student experience: Fleming College has a large number of faculty that will go above and beyond to support the students they teach, which opens up many opportunities for students to learn and develop. During my two years at Fleming, I have volunteered at the school’s Open House, tutored fellow classmates, attended the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) Student Appreciation night, and was also given the opportunity to act as the student representative for the 2011 Board of Advisors Meeting for our program. At this meeting I met the manager of Nuclear Security at Ontario Power Generation and arranged my field placement, where I met a great deal of extremely knowledgeable and experienced people. With all of these amazing experiences combined, I have been able to develop an extensive understanding of the security and risk management industry in order to prepare myself for my future endeavours. From my first day as a nervous first semester student to my last day taking 20 minutes to say goodbye to my amazing new friends, Fleming has been both a very challenging and immensely rewarding experience!

On being Valedictorian: I feel extremely honoured to be selected as this year’s valedictorian for the School of Law, Justice and Community Services. There is a vast number of brilliant people who have worked very hard to reach convocation and I feel very privileged to be able to represent the graduating class of 2012.

On her post-grad plans: I will be taking the Emergency Management post-graduate program at Fleming in September.

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Jennifer Wilson-Bridgman, Sculpture certificate graduate and 2012 Haliburton School of the Arts Valedictorian.

On her decision to attend Fleming College: As a child I had been artistic but having been a missionary kid, living overseas and attending small schools with limited art experiences, I chose to pursue education, rather than art as a career. I taught elementary school and worked as a curriculum consultant. Then I got my Master’s degree in curriculum development and PhD in Reading Education and became a professor teaching. Following my father’s sudden passing, I took over as President of the Christian humanitarian organization he had founded. But three years ago I found myself feeling burdened and lacking joy and realized that it was because I’d neglected my creative side. I took some summer art classes at the Haliburton School of the Arts and loved the experience. Then when I heard about the 15-week intensive sculpture certificate program, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to fully immerse myself in art. It was a childhood dream come true!

On her student experience: Amazing! The School of the Arts is beautiful and wonderfully equipped. The instructors are all practicing artists, so they have a wealth of experience. We worked with a new medium almost every week so my repertoire for visual expression has broadened considerably. It was a very supportive environment.

On being Valedictorian: I’m internally driven. I threw myself into the sculpture program with such focus and energy – I was like a sponge trying to soak up every bit of learning and experience I could. I did it for me, not for outward recognition. But being chosen as Valedictorian and receiving the Outstanding Achievement Award and Sculpture Award were all affirmations that, at 51 years of age, I truly could make a life change and live out my dream of being an artist. And it felt very rewarding and satisfying to have the College identify my passion, hard work and achievement.

On her post-grad plans: My dream has been to be able to be self employed as a working artist (painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, body casting, metal furniture). Currently I have a home studio and receive commission work through word of mouth. By the Fall, I plan to have a website in place to promote my work and a solo show. I will continue to take art classes at the Haliburton School of the Arts to further develop and broaden my skills.

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For more information:

Leigh McEachran, Communications Officer, 705-749-5530 x 1370 or leighm@flemingc.on.ca