From recruitment to college to career, Mary MacLeod-Beaver aims to support Indigenous students

Nimkiinaabkawaagan Mary MacLeod-Beaver wants to ensure Indigenous students feel supported throughout their post-secondary journey, even after graduation.

“Indigenous students come from various backgrounds and some have made great strides to get here. I think it’s important to have a role like this one to ensure that those students feel seen and supported because they deserve the same opportunities as others,” said Mary, who is the Indigenous Student Transitions Advisor at Fleming College.

In her role, Mary does community outreach and engagement, represents Fleming at the Aboriginal Post-Secondary Information Program, coordinates Fleming’s Indigenous student orientation and mentorship program (Bishkaa), and develops and delivers programs to support Indigenous students moving beyond Fleming College.

“It differs from mainstream recruitment in that our goal is to see Indigenous students successful in how they determine success for themselves,” she explains. “And that may not mean Fleming College is a part of it; but if it is, great! We’ll be here to help them through their Fleming journey.”

Mary said financial barriers is one obstacle that may deter students from applying, which is why she promotes scholarships and bursaries that are available for Indigenous students.

“The feeling of ‘can I do it? Am I smart enough?’ is another barrier for students,” she explains. It’s important for Indigenous students to see themselves reflected at these institutions so that when they have feelings like this, they can look to others who are like them and see them be successful.”

Mary is from Alderville First Nation and attended Trent University for Business Administration – Human Resources Management. Her previous experience includes Lands and Consultation with Alderville First Nation and working as the Indigenous Enrolment Advisor at Trent University. She is excited to now be part of the Indigenous Student Services team at Fleming College.

“This role is holistic in support from a student’s perspective. From my own experience, I’ve realized how important it is for Indigenous students to feel welcomed and connected when they come to post-secondary. And I’m grateful to be a part of that experience with students,” said Mary, who looks forward to watching new students transition to college life and see where their journey takes them after Fleming.

“I believe there are great supports here for Indigenous students,” said Mary. “The students that I have met so far at Fleming have truly made me feel like I belong here. The sense of community that they are helping to create is really cool to see. I feel like anyone would be lucky to be a part of it– only you can really choose whether Fleming is the right choice for you, so please come visit!”

School Within a College inspires Shelby Baldino to strive for success

Shelby Baldino never imagined herself graduating from high school, serving as Valedictorian for her class or attending college, but thanks to School Within a College, Shelby achieved more than she thought possible for herself.

“I never in a million years thought I’d graduate high school, let alone be Valedictorian. It was a great experience,” said Shelby. “When I got the message, I cried. In high school, I was put down a lot by my teachers and peers because they didn’t think I was making an effort, but I had depression and that’s what was stopping me.”

In high school, Shelby had poor attendance, struggled with authority figures, and was battling depression. Her guidance counsellor introduced her to the School Within a College program, a partnership between the school board and Fleming College.

School Within a College offers a college learning environment for senior secondary students to complete their Ontario Secondary School Diploma credits. The program includes a dual credit course, where students are able to earn one college credit.

“I loved it! It’s more of a college setting and it’s up to you to do the work. For me, it was a better environment and I felt safer, and the people who work here are more approachable and try to help,” Shelby explains.

“My attendance got a lot better— I used to not go to school at all. After being in this program, I saw how much I could get done in a day and that made me feel good,” she said. “I went from 50s and 60s in high school to 70s and 80s here. That made me feel good and made me want to come. It influenced me to try harder.”

Through the School Within a College program, Shelby said she improved her attendance, time management skills, organizational skills, work ethic and more. She also felt supported with her mental health and is especially grateful for being introduced to the Peterborough Sport & Wellness Centre.

“When my teacher Amy brought me to the Wellness Centre and I saw how everyone just does their own thing, I realized this isn’t bad,” she said. “Now I find exercise is relaxing and it makes me feel better if I’m stressed.”

After completing her Ontario Secondary School Diploma, Shelby decided to continue her studies at Fleming College. She is currently in her first semester of the Law Clerk program with plans to earn a dual diploma in Law Clerk and Paralegal.

“I have nine siblings and I’m the first one in my family who will graduate from college. My mom said, ‘you’re not allowed to drop out!’ It’s exciting, but I’m also nervous because I’m setting the bar for everyone after me,” Shelby explains. “It’s showing them that you can struggle and make it. Even if you have problems, you can do it.”

Shelby’s long-term career plans are to finish the Law Clerk and Paralegal programs at Fleming College, use an education pathway to earn a degree at Ontario Tech University, go to Law School, work as a lawyer for 10 years and then apply to become a judge.

“Back in high school, I never would think to push myself. But after graduating with good marks and being Valedictorian, I might as well strive to be the best that I can be,” said Shelby.

Bowman Allen takes on World Firefighter Combat Challenge

Bowman Allen isn’t afraid of a challenge.

“Hard work is a choice and I’m not one to shy away from it, so I will be doing all I can for my future,” said Bowman, Pre-Service Firefighter Education and Training.

The Fleming Fire Combat Team member is flying to Montgomery, Alabama for the World Firefighter Combat Challenge. From October 21 – 26, competitors will perform physically demanding tasks that simulate the demands of firefighters in emergency situations. This includes climbing a tower, hoisting, chopping, dragging hoses, and rescuing a dummy that weighs 175 lbs.

“I’m looking for an experience I won’t easily forget,” said Bowman about the competition. “I’m hoping to qualify for the final day, and am excited to experience the American course, talk to the different firefighters and departments from around the world, and hope to see some familiar faces from the past season.”

Bowman has been training regularly since Nationals, with a focus on leg strength and endurance to conquer the tower portion of the race faster, and is prioritizing sleep, nutrition, and recovery.

He joined the Fleming Fire Combat Team in February, wanting to try a new sport, compete, and network with firefighters from across Canada.

“Being on the team has been a great experience, getting to know each member of the team and the coaching staff,” he said. “The season would not have been as incredible had it not been for my teammates and the experiences we all were able to share.”

He also enjoyed his experience in the Pre-Service Firefighter Education and Training program, which is taught at the Eastern Ontario Emergency Training Academy (EOETA) in Norwood, Ont. The EOETA applied learning environment features a burn tower, roof props, door props, search and rescue maze, confined space prop and new high intensity propane training props.

“The fire grounds and equipment we have access to is awesome and the environment we have because of the facility makes it all that more real,” he said.

Bowman chose this program because he wanted a rewarding career where he could make a difference.

“I feel being able to serve my community, help others, and have a positive impact on life and safety as a firefighter is the most rewarding career I could ever have,” Bowman explains. “Being a real-life superhero for my children is also pretty amazing.”

Bowman is currently serving as a firefighter in Cavan Monaghan and hopes to convince more department members to get involved in the Firefighter Combat Challenge one day.

Fleming Fire Combat Team’s Declan Fitzpatrick set to compete in World Firefighter Combat Challenge

Fleming Fire Combat Team member Declan Fitzpatrick is heading to Montgomery, Alabama to compete in the World Firefighter Combat Challenge.

This intense competition demonstrates the firefighting profession’s rigors to the world. From October 21 to 26, competitors will perform physically demanding tasks that simulate the demands of firefighters in emergency situations. This includes climbing a tower, hoisting, chopping, dragging hoses, and rescuing a dummy that weighs 175 lbs, while wearing firefighting gear.

“I joined the team because I wanted the challenge and the experience of FireFit. The career networking was a bonus,” said Declan, who took Fleming’s Pre-Service Firefighter Education and Training program and joined the Fleming Fire Combat Team in February, 2019. “It has been a lot of fun training and competing this year; we had an incredible group of people on the team this year, competitors and coaches.”

Declan qualified for the World Firefighter Combat Challenge last month at the FireFit Worlds & Canadian National Championships in Oshawa. He achieved an incredible 1:24 in his first year competing in FireFit, making him the fastest new competitor in Canada and earning him the 2019 FireFit National Rookie of the Year award.

“Being Rookie of the Year is very rewarding and has made all the time and commitment put in that much more worth it,” said Declan, who has maintained his routine of home workouts and weekend training with the Fleming Fire Combat Team. “In Alabama, I am hoping to achieve a time of less than 1:40, which is the cut-off to get into the ‘Lion’s Den’, a prestigious ‘club’ that is very difficult to become a part of. Even if that doesn’t happen, I will still be thrilled to have taken part in the FireFit Worlds.”

Declan enrolled in Fleming’s Pre-Service Firefighter Education and Training program because being a firefighter has always been his dream job.

“Being a firefighter has always appealed to me because it’s a challenging and very rewarding career that will allow me to do a lot of good for my community,” he said. “I have enjoyed my time at Fleming, both in the course and on the FireFit team. We had a great group of people in the course, as well as the instructors.”

Keeping strong cultural and spiritual ties is important to Fleming Grad Recruiter Rebekah Rego

Fleming College’s commitment to helping every student succeed is what makes it so special to Rebekah Rego.

“Everyone here is dedicated to your success,” explains Rebekah. “Faculty and staff strive to help and want to see you succeed!”

As an Anishinaabek student, success to Rebekah means maintaining her strong cultural and spiritual ties, which is why she connected with Indigenous Student Services.

Indigenous Student Services at Fleming aims to help students transition into college by providing support, information and resources, cultural programming, and by acting as a link to the college and wider community. It quickly became Rebekah’s favourite place on campus.

“Indigenous Student Services felt like my home away from home,” shared Rebekah. “Indigenous Student Services provided me support and a safe place to strive as an Anishinaabek student. Their services include Elder visits and a medicine room.”

She added that the staff are supportive and provide cultural programming that fits everyone’s schedule to ensure events and programming are easily accessible.

Rebekah graduated this June from the Social Service Worker program with the Indigenous Perspectives Designation. She thoroughly enjoyed her Fleming experience, including the Sutherland Campus, Fleming staff, academics and the extracurricular activities she was involved in.

“I felt like I was a part of the Fleming community,” said Rebekah. “I had such amazing and meaningful experiences during my time at Fleming.”

At Fleming College, Rebekah said she was able to learn valuable skills while developing herself as a professional.

“My program helped me prepare for the working world while I also learned how to give a voice to those who cannot, be involved in community events, organize a student club and have the responsibility of being on committees,” she said.

Rebekah feels so strongly about Fleming College that she is joining the Student Recruitment team this fall as a Fleming Grad Recruiter. Rebekah will be travelling across Ontario to share information about Fleming with prospective students.

“I am really looking forward to being able to share my enthusiasm for learning and my passion for Fleming so that other potential students can see the valuable opportunity Fleming presents for their future careers,” said Rebekah. “I cannot wait to meet students across the province and share my experiences and knowledge with them.”

Weekly class inspires career change for Michelle Ménard

When Michelle Ménard was in high school, she felt lost about what to do next.

“I was not aware of all of the opportunities,” said Michelle.

She decided to take the Bachelor of Arts – Honours program at the University of Guelph followed by an Event Management graduate certificate at Humber College. After graduating from Humber College in 2014, Michelle moved to Edmonton, Alberta and worked in the hospitality and event industry for five years.

What changed Michelle’s path was a community silversmith class that she had signed up for as a fun activity to do once per week for four months.

“There’s nothing quite like the feeling of completing a piece from one of your own designs,” said Michelle, who fell in love with jewellery creation through the class.

Michelle realized this career would combine her artistic passion with the business skills she had gained from work and post-secondary school. She wanted to pursue the idea further and discovered the Jewellery Essentials program at the Haliburton School of Art + Design (HSAD).

“I had looked at a few different schools but noticed that their curriculum had a lot of electives that, as a mature student, I had no interest in,” Michelle explains. “The certificate program was appealing to me because I had already attended post-secondary school and I discovered that HSAD offered an intensive, 15-week program that would have me learning straight away. I visited the campus and the decision felt right.”

Fleming’s Haliburton Campus is nestled in the beautiful Haliburton Highlands, overlooking Head Lake in the town of Haliburton. The community is welcoming and known for amazing scenery and an eclectic community of resident artists.

At the Haliburton Campus, Michelle enjoyed the Great Hall, the Maker Space, and the surrounding forest for fresh air and inspiration. She said the quiet town offers lots of great activities to do and features beautiful scenery, including Skyline Park for a stunning view of the town and Head Lake.

“The community is friendly and the campus atmosphere with small classes offers the perfect place for students to connect,” said Michelle. “I was not expecting to make friends in just four months but, to my pleasant surprise, I ended up building connections with classmates that truly meant the world to me and that I will always remember.”

In addition to making friends, Michelle said the benefit of intimate class sizes is the in-depth personal training students receive from faculty. Faculty know students by name and can answer questions and provide help and guidance when needed.

“I fell in love with the atmosphere,” said Michelle. “Most of my time was spent making memories and creating in the jewellery studio. It’s a room fully equipped with possibilities and is where I felt most happy on campus.”

She adds, “After my program, all of my initial uncertainties about going into jewellery vanished. I learned that jewellery making is the career I want to pursue.”

Michelle graduated from the Haliburton School of Art + Design this June and will stay connected to the college by working as a Fleming Grad Recruiter this fall. As part of Fleming’s Student Recruitment team, Michelle is travelling across Ontario sharing information about Fleming with prospective students.

“I became a Grad Recruiter because I want to mentor young students and assist them in the overwhelming process of deciding their educational future,” she said. “I recall being in high school and feeling lost in terms of what I wanted to do next. I was not aware of all of the opportunities and I want to help as many students understand the exciting options to prepare them for careers.”

Michelle is most looking forward to promoting the arts and answering questions from students.

Timing is everything for Grad Recruiter Alannah Kennedy

Timing is everything.

The first time Alannah Kennedy came to Fleming College, she started right after high school in 2008, she didn’t feel ready for post-secondary school and she left during the winter semester.

The second time Alannah came to Fleming College, she was a mature student in 2017, she felt ready and excited to begin her studies, and she proudly completed the Office Administration – Executive program.

“I chose to return to Fleming and commute from Oshawa because I never forgot how Fleming made me feel; Fleming was like a family and everyone is very inclusive and really cares about you and your success,” said Alannah. “When I made the decision to return to school, Fleming was my first and only choice.”

Alannah’s favourite thing about Fleming College is the support offered by faculty and support staff, who truly care about every student.

“You’re not just a number here. Our college community genuinely cares about you and your successes, whatever that may look like. Faculty and support staff know you by name, not your student ID number,” Alannah explains. “We are at an advantage being a mid-size college; there’s lots more one-on-one opportunities to help you succeed. And our programs give you a lot of hands-on work experience via simulations and/or out in the industry.”

During breaks from her classes, coursework, and working and volunteering on campus, Alannah enjoyed a hidden gem at Sutherland Campus, which she recommends to others.

“If you follow the pathway behind the school by the cafeteria… in behind the Library you come to this one opening that has a bunch of shrub with a little bench and, in behind, is this beautiful rock pathway that leads up to doors that are off the main foyer,” she describes. “I really enjoy the beauty of the rock steps, the shrubs and forest in this particular area. Not a lot of people use this area, so it’s a nice place for me to sit and clear my head.”

Alannah has come a long way since her first Fleming College experience and, now that she has finished her program, she doesn’t want to say good-bye. Instead, she will be working with Fleming’s Student Recruitment team as a Fleming Grad Recruiter.

“I feel like sharing my story and my experience at Fleming College will speak volumes to students and that’s why I wanted to be a Grad Recruiter,” said Alannah, who will be travelling across Ontario sharing information about Fleming College with prospective students.

“I am not much of a traveler; I would love to do some travelling but I am honestly a momma’s girl, so I tend stay close by my mom,” said Alannah. “This opportunity is allowing me to get out of my comfort zone and letting me experience our big beautiful province and meet different kinds of people, so I am really excited to be just experiencing new adventures and seeing where the road leads me.”

Fleming faculty Liz Stone helps unveil community mosaic monument

The pebble mosaic located in Millennium Park, Peterborough, Ont., that honours sexual assault survivors and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG).

A beautiful pebble mosaic honouring sexual assault survivors and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) is now part of Millennium Park in Peterborough, Ont. The monument was unveiled on Thursday, June 20, and Liz Stone, Academic Chair of Indigenous Perspectives in Fleming’s School of General Arts and Sciences, was one of many celebrating its completion.

Liz, who was the Executive Director of Niijkiwendidaa Anishnaabekwewag Services Circle and was involved in this project since its inception, said “Instead of feeling like an accomplishment, it felt like a start of something or continuation. I felt invigorated; it gave a lot of people a lot of energy, looking at what we did and how we can continue.”

Liz Stone speaking at the mosaic unveiling.

Liz shared that it was emotional to see all of the different pockets of her life come together at the unveiling. In attendance were family members, Fleming College students and colleagues, professional connections, members of Indigenous communities and more. “Having everyone in the same place was humbling and exciting,” she said.

The project is a collaboration between Niijkiwendidaa Anishnaabekwewag Services Circle, Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre, Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre, and the First Peoples House of Learning. Toronto-based non-profit Red Dress Productions, which creates collaborative art projects for public spaces, partnered to create the mosaic and provided the stones.

“By necessity, not-for-profits build relationships because there isn’t any other way to get things done,” Liz explains. “But all of our jobs should be part of relationship building.”

The Millennium Park location was chosen because of its medicine wheel garden, created years ago by a not-for-profit collective whose focus was to create meaningful and respectful relationships with Indigenous people in Peterborough. Liz shared that they were looking for a way to grow that space in Millennium Park when Lisa Clarke, Executive Director of Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre, approached them to collaborate with Red Dress Productions on a Countdown Public Art Legacy Project.

Launched in 2016, the Countdown Public Art Legacy Project is a series of pebble mosaics honouring sexual assault survivors across Ontario and currently has eight locations. The Peterborough mosaic build included 75 volunteers.

“The issues that I face as an Indigenous woman, they’re daunting. They’re big and they can drag someone down,” she shared. “For MMIW, I live in a city, not on a reserve, and my last name is anglicized; if I were to go missing, I would not be identified as an MMIW. I wouldn’t be counted in those statistics unless someone identified me as Indigenous. The importance of this is that it lifts up that heaviness to see that I have help and support, and in turn other marginalized groups have help and support. For marginalized people it can be depressing, but I can use my privilege of being at decision-making tables as a superpower to help others.”

Fleming Panamá Bilingüe participant uses English skills to make a difference

Martin Gedeon Palacio Rivera, pictured in Panama at the school where he teaches.

Martin Gedeon Palacio Rivera never imagined he would have the opportunity to study abroad. But thanks to Panamá Bilingüe, Martin was able to study English in Canada and have the experience of a lifetime at Fleming College.

“I never imagined I would get to study abroad because I come from a humble family that doesn’t have money for me to study abroad. I decided to keep studying hard to get a scholarship to keep learning,” said Martin, who did receive a scholarship to study English through Panamá Bilingüe. “I never imagined that my experience at Fleming College would change my life.”

Panamá Bilingüe is an education program in Panama that promotes English language learning to create more opportunities and increase economic growth. The goal is to make Panama a bilingual country.

Martin took the Teaching Training Program through Panamá Bilingüe, where he studied English and did teacher training at Fleming College for 16 weeks (eight weeks of English language learning and eight weeks of teacher training). Martin said English is his third language and he took this program in 2016 to develop his English skills and to train to teach English in Panama.

“My impression of Canada when I arrived was incredible, especially the education, culture, hospitality, security and the environment. These are completely different from my country,” said Martin. “The most important thing for me to learn about was teaching style, methodology techniques and strategies that Canadian teachers use to interact with students.”

Martin describes his experience at Fleming as amazing, wonderful, incredible, joyful and unforgettable. The welcoming and friendly environment on campus made it feel like home.

“I’m glad I studied at Fleming College,” he said. “The host family members I got were so kind and gave me a lot of support. The College staff members were so helpful; they worked hard with us during the 16 weeks we were at Fleming College.”

When he returned to Panama, Martin was hired to teach English at Los Hatillos Elementary School and later moved to another elementary school called Cañazas Arriba, which is where he teaches now. Martin said he is using the methodologies, strategies and techniques taught to him at Fleming College in his classroom, and shares the information with other teachers at his workplace.

Last June, Martin put his English skills to use volunteering at Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. For three months, Martin was one of ten teachers who volunteered to teach children in the camp.

“I really loved and enjoyed it. I shared this experience with a friendly and wonderful group of Arabic people,” he said.

Martin said he highly recommends Fleming College to others interested in learning English because of Fleming’s friendly and welcoming environment.

“Choose Fleming College because you will find friendly people around you,” he said. “They will help you and it doesn’t matter where you come from, they will make you feel like you are at home.”

OACYC provincial conference inspires Child and Youth Care student Denise Borg

Program coordinator Heather Sago (left) with Denise Borg

Child and Youth Care student Denise Borg loves to learn, which is why she signed up to attend the Ontario Association of Child and Youth Care (OACYC) provincial conference.

“I felt like this would be a huge learning opportunity,” said the third-semester student. “I’d be able to introduce myself to people in the field and hear their stories, and learn a lot more about what career I’ve put myself into.”

Denise is one of 230 participants who attended the sold-out conference this June, which welcomed local, provincial, national and international speakers to Peterborough. Entitled “Weaving Perspectives: Challenging Ourselves and Others Through Storytelling and Narratives,” the three-day conference featured keynote speakers, panel presentations and interactive workshops that explored ways to enhance relational care practice, methods and models, and encouraged attendees to continue working towards excellence.

“One workshop moved me that I began to think of ways that me, as a student, could begin to make a change,” said Denise on the Working with young people experiencing death, loss or bereavement workshop. In that workshop, the group discussed that while there is a program for helping youth deal with the grief of losing a loved one, there is no program in place for new foster children dealing with the grief of losing the life they had been living before being placed in foster care. “The next workshop I attended was about influencing change in your organization [Influencing organized culture], and those two workshops together had the wheels turning in my head.”

Denise explains that when children are taken to a foster home, there is a “tiptoe period” where they try to behave, be good, and always do everything right so they can stay and not be moved. It is a huge life change, with new rules, a new home, and new people.

“I want to help foster kids deal with that form of grief,” she said. “Having someone to be there to work with that young person, to ask them if there’s anything you can do to make them more comfortable in this situation or happier, or any extracurriculars they want to do, or if they’re missing something from their culture that they want… just having someone there to support you with this, that is huge.”

From the ages of 11 to 16, Denise lived in foster care in her home province of Nova Scotia, bouncing from foster home to foster home before running away to move back with her mom.

“There was no one I could trust or talk to about being in care,” said Denise. “You’re taken away from your family and put in a stranger’s house. You don’t feel safe surrounded by strangers.”

When Denise read the description of Fleming’s CYC program, she felt inspired. “I thought, this is the person I needed in care. I wanted that, and I want to be that person,” she said. “I lived with addictions for four years of my life. When I saw I could work with young people who live with addictions, I thought ‘If I could work with foster kids who live with addictions or out of care with addictions that would be essential.’ If I had someone that I could have gone to and discussed my issues with, I don’t think I would’ve fallen down the path that I did.”

Denise said she reflected a lot about her past at the OACYC provincial conference and her experiences in foster care. One powerful moment Denise experienced during the conference was listening to Ziigwanbinesii Charles sing at the sunrise ceremony, opening ceremony and closing ceremony.

“My heart filled with so much love that I cried. It was so beautiful to hear her sing,” said Denise. “When I was in Nova Scotia, I was in a Mi’kmaq studies course and Ziig sang one of the songs my teacher sang to me when I was in school. It touched a part of my soul.”

She said the conference experience has also been beneficial in discovering more ways she can help others.

“I don’t think that I would have made the connections I did or that I would’ve thought about the grief that foster kids go through when they’re apprehended– and that there’s nothing in place for that,” she said. “It’s been beneficial, and I’ll take everything I learned and put towards my practise and next two years of school.”

Denise said she is enjoying her time in the CYC program at Fleming College and attributes it for her personal growth over the past year. She said the program’s inclusion of self reflection has helped her to move forward.

“I’ve had a lot of heart-to-heart moments with some of my professors and that makes the program that much more enticing,” said Denise. “You can tell Heather, Aurora, Cherylanne and Patricia really care, they are willing to meet you where you’re at– all of the teachers, really. My legislation teacher is the woman I inspire to be; Lisa Fenn inspires, has so much passion, she is my role model.”

Denise is excited to continue learning and developing skills for her career path. She said the OACYC conference confirmed that this is the right fit for her.

“Hearing other people’s outlooks and experiences put me in a spot where I need to do this. This is who I am meant to be,” she explained. “I feel it in my heart that I’m in the right place.”