Police Foundations grad Montana Fazi takes Fleming education pathway to UOIT

35251086_2064016697170090_7086100957796237312_nWhen Montana Fazi crossed the convocation stage to receive her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), she felt grateful for Fleming College Police Foundations faculty for helping her reach this milestone.
“I am truly beyond thankful for all of the Police Foundations faculty,” said Montana. “They played a huge role in my education decisions and successes. It was because of their encouragement and guidance that I continued learning to pursue my education and career goals. When I struggled through university, I pushed through those struggles because I wanted to make them proud and succeed.”

Montana graduated from Fleming’s Police Foundations program in 2015, describing her two years at Sutherland Campus as her best years yet.

“Fleming College provided a lot of fun ways to get involved in the campus community. I took advantage of this and made the best of my college experience,” said Montana, who was involved in the Street Team, First Aid Support Team, International Student Club, and International Peer Mentoring. “These experiences allowed me to grow as an individual, meet new people, and gain transferable skills.”

Montana also credits the Police Foundations program with helping her gain transferable knowledge and skills, which she used for a Fleming education pathway to UOIT the following May (2016).

“There are a few differences between college and university that I have noticed,” said Montana, who graduated from UOIT with her Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Justice this year.

She explained that Fleming has group work and scenario learning exercises to apply course material, and has small class sizes.

“I feel that Fleming did prepare me for university,” said Montana. “I was able to identify theories and concepts that I learned in college courses that came up again in university courses. Being prepared and already having knowledge of the material made transitioning into university courses smoother.”

Montana enjoyed her time at UOIT and credits the Student Learning Centre staff and professors with making access to disability services a great experience. She said they accommodated her needs, pushed her to succeed, and were there for her.

She recommends Fleming’s education pathways to other students who want to expand their skills and get both the college and university experience.

“I was able to gain the hands-on experience through college, while also gaining experience in independent learning through university. Both of which are valuable experiences that I can bring with me into my field of work,” she said.

From taking a multi-millionaire out to dinner to creating a business, Fleming College is a wild ride for Dylan Trepanier

dylan-t-blogWhen Dylan Trepanier reflects on his most memorable experience at Fleming College, he recalls the time he took a multi-millionaire to dinner in his 2006 Chevrolet Equinox.

He had been tasked with driving Nicole Verkindt – a young, successful entrepreneur who founded OMX (Offset Market Exchange) and serves as a Dragon on CBC’s “Next Gen Den” – from the Innovation Cluster to St. Veronus restaurant. Nicole was in Peterborough to speak at a FastStart Fleming event and Dylan had won the opportunity to have dinner with her afterward.

“I’ll never forget her racing me to my car and getting in the passenger seat, and all I could think about was the bits of dried paint on the seat and the fact I was about to drive around a Dragon,” said Dylan, who graduated from the Business Administration – Marketing program this year.

“But the moment I remember the most that night is when all the stress melted away, when she asked to listen to my story.”

He shared his business idea with Nicole, a driven and passionate “rock star” business person named Canada’s 2017 Woman Entrepreneur of the Year by StartUp Canada. Nicole enthusiastically asked Dylan questions and gave valuable feedback.

“I’ll never forget the feeling when she told me that she believed in me and my idea. It felt incredible to be acknowledged by someone who understands what it’s like to put everything on the line to follow their dreams,” he said.

Dylan’s business idea is Alexander Optical, a team of on-demand health care service professionals that organize pop-up eye exam clinics. Their teams visit places like schools, long-term care residences, and companies to offer eye health care services, including glasses.

Dylan (right) with the Alexander Optical team
Dylan (right) with the Alexander Optical team

He developed this idea in 2013 and came to Fleming College in September 2015 because of it, working with nearly every professor to tailor assignments, projects and case studies to help understand his business plan. In his last semester, Dylan officially launched Alexander Optical as his Applied Project for the Business Administration – Marketing program and presented it at the Innovation Showcase event, where he earned the Most Innovative Business Award and the Best Presenter Award.

Dylan was also awarded the GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Canada Award for Outstanding Business Achievements, The Duane Parnham Business Development Award, the Sustainable Peterborough Award, the Student Administrative Council’s President’s Award, and the Valedictorian Award.

“The Fleming College community is generous and supportive. My success here never would have been possible without the relationships built over the last three years. It’s this community that’s helped me to become confident in myself and my career choice,” said Dylan. “I loved my time here in this program, and having the co-curricular hands-on opportunities available to practice what I was learning in class made my time way more valuable.”

Through the Business Administration – Marketing program, Dylan developed communication skills, problem solving, accountability, and more.

“I 11/10 would recommend this diploma to a friend, have recommended it to friends, and I will continue to advocate on behalf of the program because I graduated feeling ready for the industry,” said Dylan. “I know my graduating class is going to do incredible things with the knowledge we’ve learned here.”

Dylan served as Valedictorian at the School of Business convocation ceremony this month and hopes his fellow graduates remember to seize the moment, prioritize their mental and physical health, get out of their comfort zone, learn where to focus their efforts, and remember they have the power to control how others treat them.

“And most importantly, put your heart into it,” he added.

Dylan thanks Student Life Coordinator Leona Folz, and faculty members Raymond Yip Choy and Wendy Morgan for being role models, and the Class of 2018 for helping make amazing memories.

“This class is going down in the history books, you watch,” he said.

Now that Dylan has graduated from Fleming College, he is working on Alexander Optical full-time. Dylan was selected as one of seven youth entrepreneurs for the Innovation Cluster Slingshot Program, which provides him with workspace and access to workshops, resources, specialists and tools throughout the summer culminating in a pitch competition to become a full-time client of the Cluster and win $1000.

“With the skills I’ve learned in class, I’ve been able to create a lean and profitable business model that satisfies the three pillars of sustainability, creates incredible impact, and is continuing to gain momentum with the support of the Innovation Cluster,” said Dylan.

Graduation gowns and medicine wheels; why many Fleming College graduates wore a medicine wheel pin at convocation

Indigenous Student Services Coordinator Ashley Safar at convocation
Indigenous Student Services Coordinator Ashley Safar at convocation

Every year at convocation, a representative from Indigenous Student Services will stand before graduates to acknowledge that Fleming College is situated on Michi Saagiig lands and the traditional territory covered by the Williams Treaty and Treaty Number 20, and thank the Michi Saagiig peoples for allowing us to work in their territory. But at this year’s ceremonies, many in the sea of graduates adorned their gown with a medicine wheel pin to acknowledge the rights of Indigenous peoples.

At the Frost Campus and Sutherland Campus convocation ceremonies, Indigenous Student Services staff and volunteers congratulated graduates before the ceremony and gave them the opportunity to sign a declaration. The declaration states, “By signing above, I am making a declaration to move forward in my professional and personal life as a person who acknowledges the rights of Indigenous peoples and will advocate for further respect towards First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples within the territory that I choose to call home.”

Each student who signed the declaration was given a medicine wheel pin to proudly display on their convocation gown. According to Indigenous Student Services, 191 graduates signed the declaration at the Frost Campus ceremony, and 700 graduates signed the declaration at the six Sutherland Campus ceremonies.

“As a college, we are collectively striving towards creating a campus culture of one that respects and honours the First Peoples of this land. This initiative, this opportunity for making a public declaration, brings us one step closer to seeing this vision come to fruition,” said Kylie Fox, Assistant Manager of Indigenous Student Services, who said Fleming College has done a lot of great work in the past few years to ensure Indigenous students and staff feel welcome and safe on campus, and is working towards a place where Indigenous peoples will begin to see themselves represented in all areas of campus life.

Photo courtesy of Indigenous Student Services
Photo courtesy of Indigenous Student Services

“Standing in the audience this year, visibly seeing our allies in the room, it was overwhelming and extremely powerful. You could see how proud students were to show their support,” said Kylie. “Knowing that almost 1, 000 Fleming graduates are moving into the workforce with this intention of honouring the rights of Indigenous peoples, I think that gives us a lot of hope for our future and it also says a lot about the type of citizens we are fostering here at Fleming. So, miigwech, thank you to all of you who supported this initiative and to those of you who signed the declaration. Niwii Kaanaaganaa, with all of my relations.”

Indigenous Student Services Coordinator Ashley Safar said the declaration will be offered annually at Fleming convocation. “This is an idea we’ve discussed for a while because we wanted to increase awareness,” she said. “And the Indigenous Perspectives Designation has gained more momentum and more schools are incorporating it into their curriculum. There’s some growth in the college and we wanted to represent that.”

The Indigenous Perspectives Designation (IPD) is an optional learning opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge of Indigenous peoples, their cultures, histories, traditions and contributions to our shared society. The designation is available to students in the following programs:

  • Child and Youth Care
  • Ecosystem Management Technician
  • Ecosystem Management Technology
  • Mental Health and Addiction Worker
  • Social Service Worker
  • Community and Justice Services
  • Customs Border Services
  • Law Clerk
  • Paralegal
  • Police Foundations
  • Early Childhood Education.

Graduates with an IPD have a strong foundational basis in Indigenous Studies.

Several programs are currently developing curriculum to meet the IPD requirements, and a number of programs that do not offer the IPD have included the opportunity for students to take one or both GNED courses. Some programs have modified their vocational subjects to include Indigenous content.

Fleming College has a long history of supporting Indigenous learners and has relied on its Indigenous Education Council (an advisory committee made up of local Indigenous leaders) for more than two decades. Simultaneously, both Fleming’s Indigenous curriculum and support services have continued to grow. In December 2015, Fleming College formally committed to Indigenous education by signing the Colleges and Institutes Canada Indigenous Education Protocol, which reaffirms Fleming’s commitment to Indigenous education and provides a vision of how the college will strive to improve and better serve Indigenous peoples.

The Indigenous Education Council at Fleming College has been active since 1992. It has included representatives from local First Nations, local community representation such as local Elders and Traditional Knowledge holders, Indigenous youth and student representation; as well as internal employees of Fleming, who are all committed to Indigenous education.

CYC graduate and Valedictorian Brittany Parsons hopes to empower others with learning disabilities

brittany-parsonsWhen Brittany Parsons was told she has mild dyslexia and short term memory in grade 5, it was labelled as a “hurdle” and a “roadblock.” She grew up being pulled out of classes and made to feel different from her friends.

“It was really hard growing up,” said Brittany. “I tried to compensate and seem like I didn’t have one. I worked so hard to want to be like everyone else. But in high school it was challenging, because my friends were all in academic and I knew I had to do applied.”

In 2011, Brittany began working at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul overnight summer camp and realized her interest in working with young people as a career. After feeling inspired by an amazing Child and Youth Care practitioner at her school, Brittany decided this career was a natural fit for her.

She attended Fleming College’s Open House event and spoke with Child and Youth Care (CYC) graduate Rachel Charles about the CYC program, which prepares individuals to provide care and treatment for children or adolescents experiencing a range of social, emotional, behavioral, or learning challenges. 30 minutes into their conversation, Brittany decided Fleming College was the right college for her and later moved from Toronto to Peterborough for her post-secondary education.

“With a learning disability in your younger years you are pulled out of classes and they make you feel different. Here at Fleming, you aren’t meant to feel different, they just give you the tools to help you,” said Brittany. “Even the word ‘accommodations’ doesn’t sound bad, as opposed to when I was younger in school and it was called a ‘hurdle’ or a ‘roadblock.’ It’s a nice way of doing things here.”

Brittany used academic accommodations and counselling services during her three years at Fleming.

“Having a career in a helping profession, I feel like it’s unrealistic for me to be perfect,” said Brittany. “I used it knowing I was almost at rock bottom, but you can feel great and still go to counselling. It’s a type of mentorship that is a healthy relationship, where you can share with no judgement.”

Brittany describes her time at Fleming as one of “self-discovery,” where she realized her purpose, values and beliefs. She enjoyed her experience and said her peers felt like family and her faculty felt like great mentors.

Through the program, Brittany said she “learned to learn my learning disability,” explaining that she learned how to advocate for herself and discover what she needs to be “unstoppable.”

“Once you learn what you need, what people once saw as a disadvantage becomes your biggest asset,” she said.

Brittany graduated this month and won the top school award, the School of Justice & Community Development Academic Achievement Award. This award is presented to a graduate for academic achievement and significant contribution to the college community. As such, Brittany was selected to deliver the Valedictorian address at convocation.

When she stood at the podium on June 6 at the School of Justice & Community Development ceremony, Brittany introduced herself by saying, “My name is Brittany Parsons. I am a first generation student, an individual who’s proud to say lives with a learning disability, and today I will graduate from the Child and Youth Care program.”

Three years ago Brittany said she would not have felt comfortable sharing her learning disability with a crowd of people, but since coming to Fleming she feels empowered to share her story.

“Some say having a learning disability is embarrassing. When you openly say it, it becomes empowering and no longer a roadblock,” she explained. “There’s always someone in your life that’ll say you can’t do something and with a learning disability you hear that 10 times more often. Once you are accepting and ready to love yourself with your learning disability, you will learn your purpose and can do whatever it is.”

Brittany is now working for York Region District School Board as a Child and Youth Care practitioner. She plans on completing a Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Care and eventually earn her PhD.

“This dream would not have been possible three years ago. I have been blessed with amazing faculty,” she said. “The thought of university is scary, but I learned that if I start early and advocate for myself, it will be possible. I’m applying this fall and will do it part-time online while I continue to work in my field, Later, once it can be a smooth transition, I will transition to full-time studies because I know I can do it!”

Ontario Envirothon: Creating Environmental Leaders of Tomorrow

By: Laura Copeland

Allison Hands, Education Manager at Forests Ontario
Allison Hands, Education Manager at Forests Ontario

The Ontario Envirothon, held each spring, provides a unique opportunity for high school students to engage with the natural world, to learn how resources are managed, and to learn about the various careers and education pathways within the field.

“Regardless of the career path students choose after Envirothon, they will have a deeper understanding and appreciation for natural systems, and will be better able to make informed decisions about the environment,” says Allison Hands, Education Manager at Forests Ontario.

Forests Ontario has coordinated Ontario’s Envirothon program for close to 25 years, and the organization works with regional partners and sponsors – including Fleming College – to host local Envirothon workshops and competitions.

In fact, Rob Monico, with Fleming’s Office of Sustainability, participated in the Wellington-Waterloo Regional Envirothon Competition when he was in high school.

“The workshop and competition days inspired me to keep learning as much as I could about environmental issues. More importantly, I felt inspired and empowered enough to know that I could make a difference in environmental issues,” he says.

Rob’s participation in the event has come full circle. In April, he helped organize the regional Peterborough-Kawarthas-Northumberland Envirothon, which was hosted at Fleming’s Sutherland Campus. He also attended the Ontario Envirothon as a judge in May.

The Peterborough-Kawarthas-Northumberland Envirothon was a new regional competition initiated in 2017 for high schools in the area – there was no competition prior to this. A number of local organizations have worked together to launch and support this regional competition. These include Sustainable Peterborough, the County of Peterborough, Otonabee Region Conservation Authority, local school boards, and Fleming College.

envirothon-friendsThe 2018 regional competitions had 140 teams competing in total, with more than 1,000 students, teachers and volunteers participating across Envirothon events in Ontario. Winning teams from each region go on to compete at the Ontario Envirothon, which was held in Waterloo and featured 21 teams made up of 126 students and teachers.

Fleming College has hosted the Ontario Envirothon event several times at Frost Campus, and was also the co-host of the North American Envirothon championships with Trent University in 2016.

“This is an event we support because Fleming College believes in creating the next generation of environmental leaders. And, more importantly, assisting those leaders today to grow through experiential education opportunities,” says Rob.

“We have faculty, staff and students supporting this event from a variety of program areas,” adds Trish O’Connor, Director of Fleming’s Office of Sustainability. “It is also a great opportunity to showcase the wonderful natural environments at Fleming College to high school students, teachers, and the community.”

Rob explains that students take away a variety of skills by participating in the event. During the workshops and competition, students use different types of field equipment such as tree calipers, soil triangles, and dichotomous keys. Five major topics are covered – forestry, soils, aquatics, wildlife, and a fifth topic that changes every year. (This year it was climate change.)

“Teams also have to synthesize information into a coherent, timed presentation. Through this portion of the program, students develop their critical thinking, teamwork, problem solving and public speaking skills,” says Allison.

For Forests Ontario, Envirothon is a natural fit. The organization’s three pillars are tree planting, community engagement and awareness, and forest education.

“We champion Envirothon because it’s Ontario’s largest environmental competition, it promotes forest education, and it’s a really enriching experience for the students who take part,” says Allison. “We believe this competition helps to create future ‘Green Leaders.’”

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Forests Ontario works with a number of partners and sponsors to deliver Envirothon. Regionally, it works with conservation authorities, post-secondary institutions, professional/industry organizations, government, and charities/non-profits. The organization also offers additional education programs, including the 50 Million Tree Program, Forestry in the Classroom, and TD Tree Bee. For more information, visit: forestsontario.ca

For more information about Fleming College’s School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences, visit: flemingcollege.ca/SENRS

Valedictorian David Hale says college is more than good grades and graduating

david-haleWhen David Hale enrolled in the Ecosystem Management Technician program, he entered Fleming College’s Frost Campus with the mindset of earning good grades and graduating as quickly as possible. But after making connections with people and learning more about the natural world, his point of view changed on what he wanted from his college experience.

“The Frost Campus community was awesome, from the front desk workers to the cafeteria staff, the teachers and the students. I found it incredibly unique and I think this is mostly because we all have a common interest: to work in the outdoors and preserve the natural environment,” David explained. “The community is very tight knit and you get to know students from a number of different disciplines as well as your own.”

David decided to take Fleming’s Ecosystem Management program after realizing he could turn his passion for the environment into a career.

“When I exited high school I thought my passion for the outdoors was only a hobby, but after taking an unrelated program in university I decided to try and turn it into a career,” he said. “I wanted to learn more about what I was passionate about.”

Over the past two years, David learned plant identification, ecosystem classification, soil and water sampling techniques, and how to design research studies. He also developed personal skills, such as leadership and teamwork.

David with a 6.5 tonne elephant being relocated
David with a 6.5 tonne elephant being relocated

“My most memorable experience from my time at Fleming was, without a doubt, being able to spend my final semester abroad at Pidwa Wilderness Reserve in South Africa,” said David. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. We saw the most incredible things on a daily basis and we got to meet the most amazing people. While there, we also got to further develop all of the practical skills we learned in Lindsay.”

David graduated from Fleming College this month and served as Valedictorian for the School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences on Friday, June 1 at convocation.

“I hope that people feel a sense of pride after my valedictorian speech,” he said. “Fleming College is very well recognized and being a graduate is a great accomplishment.”

The Class of 2018 graduate said he would recommend the Ecosystem Management program to anyone wanting to gain practical knowledge and skills in the environmental field. He credits the program with placing a huge emphasis on preparing students for their job search, including resume building and interview techniques, as well as covering academic topics and research skills.

“Personally, I found that the best part of the program was the faculty; as long as you work hard, the teachers will do anything to make sure you get everything you wanted out of the program and then some,” said David. “The fact that you can compete to spend a semester in South Africa is just one more thing that makes Fleming’s Ecosystem Management program unlike any other!”

Next year, David plans to attend Trent University for Conservation Biology. His ultimate career goal is to work abroad in conservation.

“Frost Campus is a special place and I know I’ll be carrying it with me as I move on in the future,” he added.

Massage Therapy graduate Ashley Brzozowicz Dykstra wanted a healthcare career that makes a positive impact

ashley-brzozowicz-dykstra-blogAshley Brzozowicz Dykstra’s career criteria is that it is flexible, self-driven, and helps others. She decided that massage therapy met her requirements and, considering Fleming College is close to home and offers this program in a compressed two-year format, Ashley enrolled in Massage Therapy at Sutherland Campus.

Fleming’s five-semester, challenging and rewarding Massage Therapy program provides students with an excellent academic foundation and strong applied skills. Every week, students put their skills into practice at The Spa + Clinic at Fleming College, the onsite clinic supervised by a Registered Massage Therapist. The program has earned a great reputation, with a consistently high (over 90%) overall graduate employment rate.

“Working in the student clinic was by far my favourite experience of the program. It was awesome to get hands-on time working with real clients,” said Ashley. “Seeing how the practical application of everything we learned in class can make a difference to a client was very rewarding and put things into perspective for me.”

Ashley describes this Fleming College program as challenging and engaging. She also said the instructors and support staff are dedicated to ensuring students can succeed while having a good experience in the process.

“I already had experience with studying, but Fleming helped me develop my practical, hands-on skills,” she said. “There is a big difference between understanding something in a textbook or lecture and being able to apply that knowledge in a practical setting.”

After winning the top school award, School of Health & Wellness Academic Achievement Award, Ashley will be Valedictorian at the School of Health & Wellness convocation on Thursday, June 7 at 10 a.m.

“I hope people appreciate the importance of teamwork and can continue to work together after graduation,” said Ashley, on what she hopes people take away from her convocation speech.

Teamwork was a big part of Ashley’s Fleming College experience and made it a positive one for the Massage Therapy graduate.

“In my program, the students spend a lot of time together and became a dynamic team by the time we made it to the end of the program,” she said. “The instructors are also very engaged and ensure you feel like you are an important part of the program.”

After convocation, Ashley will be writing two provincial exams and completing her registration with the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario. She plans on working at the 360 Wellness Clinic in downtown Peterborough.

“It is pretty amazing to be a part of a healthcare profession where people enjoy and really look forward to their appointments,” said Ashley.

Valedictorian Jacob Gregory graduates from Instrumentation and Control Engineering Technician program with technical skills, industry experience, and lifelong friends

jacob-gregoryThere is one thing Instrumentation and Control Engineering Technician graduate Jacob Gregory will not let control his life: the fear of failure.

The Valedictorian for the School of Trades and Technology, Arts and Heritage, and General Arts and Science hopes his convocation speech inspires graduates to not let the fear of failure steer their lives. “Step out of your comfort zone and take risks,” said Jacob. “That is the only way to learn, grow and achieve greatness.”

Jacob came to Fleming College for the technical skills to deal with control systems, robotics and electronics in a lab environment. “Fleming has one of the best engineering labs when it comes to this type of work,” he explains.

Through the Instrumentation and Control Engineering Technician program, Jacob said he developed critical thinking, communication, teamwork, mechanical and electrical design, computer networking, electronics, process controls, automation controls and troubleshooting skills.

“My experience was amazing,” said Jacob about Fleming College. “I got the technical skills I desired, I got industry experience from the co-op, and had instructors and classmates turn into lifelong friends.”

One of Jacob’s favourite moments in the program was when the system works after hours of wiring PLCs and computers to sensors, and programming computer code to automate the system. “There is no better feeling than turning on the system and it working just like you designed it,” he said.

Jacob describes the Fleming community as inclusive, positive and friendly, and he “100%” recommends the Instrumentation and Control Engineering Technician program to others.

“There is so much work in the instrumentation and controls world. More and more processes are becoming automated and they need people who can design, run and fix these systems,” he explains. “The lab facilities are state-of-the-art and the instructors have been in the industry for a long time.”

Jacob received a job offer from Ontario Power Generation to work as an Instrumentation and Control Technician Apprentice at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, and plans to start work after graduation.

University graduate Sarah Bongelli comes to college for hands-on learning experience

sarah-bongelliValedictorian Sarah Bongelli came to Fleming College looking for a sense of direction.

After graduating from university with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Sarah wanted to gain hands-on, real world experience through a program placement to strengthen her resume and begin a career where she could apply her love of science every day. She discovered the Biotechnology – Advanced program at Fleming College and decided it was the perfect fit.

“I am glad I went back to college, as it was challenging and provided me with more real world experience that I needed,” Sarah explained, citing mock real world exercises such as crime scene processing, court interviews, and presentations.

The Class of 2018 graduate credits the Fleming College program for helping her develop a wide range of skills that she uses every day.

“I found myself really drawing comparisons between college and university, and found that college was – in some ways – much harder than university. The hands-on experience was very valuable and that’s something that you don’t get in university,” she said.

Sarah describes her Fleming faculty as “extremely welcoming, friendly and helpful,” adding that the Sutherland Campus always has a good vibe.

“I would recommend the program, but only if you like science!” she said. “There are a lot of different avenues that you can explore after graduating and the placement is an amazing way to get your foot in the door somewhere.”

Sarah will serve as Valedictorian for the School of Health and Wellness on Thursday, June 7 at 2 p.m., as she earned the School of Health and Wellness Academic Achievement Award. This award is presented to a graduate for academic achievement and significant contribution to the Fleming College community.

“I hope that my speech inspires people to do what they love and to not be afraid of change or boundaries,” said Sarah. “Life can be tough but if you use the tools that you are given, and that you possess yourself, really anything is possible.”

Valedictorian Crystal Dudgeon encourages mature learners that you are “never too old to learn”

crystal-dudgeon-blogCrystal Dudgeon was living in the Netherlands and looking for a new direction in life when her daughter, Customs Border Services student Emily, recommended Fleming College. Crystal enrolled in the Community and Justice Services program, and Emily was happy to give Crystal a campus tour and introduce her to faculty when she returned to Canada.

“Don’t ever question your age, you’re never too old to learn,” Crystal tells mature learners considering going back to school. “Your life experience is hundreds of times more valuable than anything that is written in a book—and be willing to share those experiences with your fellow students. Most importantly, never be afraid that your classmates won’t accept you because there’s room at Fleming College for everyone to belong.”

Crystal describes the Fleming community as diverse and open, and that faculty create an inclusive environment and encourage students to participate in the college community through volunteer opportunities and group work. “It was very easy for me to find a place and I felt welcomed from the first day,” she said

Crystal loved the Fleming community so much, in fact, that it wasn’t long until her youngest daughter Jamie also decided to enrol. Jamie is taking the Police Foundations program.

“Attending College with my daughters has been a dream come true for me, we get to experience the same challenges and excitements together as a family. Exam weeks can be a tense time in the Dudgeon household, but at the end of the week we also get to unwind and appreciate the support we’ve received from one another,” Crystal shared in a previous interview when she won the ASIS Friends and Family Scholarship.

She decided to switch into the Protection, Security and Investigation program after hearing faculty member Norm Killian present on the topic in the Strategies for Success class.

“When I realized that it was far more comprehensive and was aimed much higher than frontline security, I knew it was the right choice for me,” she said. “My main concern was that I might be too old, so I had a chat with a rather bemused Norm who assured me that I was not and I switched programs the next day.”

Through the Protection, Security and Investigation program, Crystal said she developed her critical thinking skills and embraced her leadership and public speaking abilities.

“I saw many of my classmates develop and grow so much over the two years that I spent with them and that was, in part, due to the obvious interest that our professors took in all of us. I’m very glad they were adept enough to recognise each of our personal strengths and subtly encouraged us to expand on them,” Crystal explained. “I feel that my experience was so remarkable because my classmates and professors were such a large part of the process and, being as fantastic as they were, it was easy to love every day that I spent in class.”

On Wednesday, June 6, Crystal will serve as Valedictorian for the School of Justice and Community Development – Justice Programs convocation ceremony. Crystal shared that her speech focuses on personal journeys and the people who walk them with us.

“I hope that it will prompt everyone to pause and reflect upon their journey through the last two years and lets them fully appreciate the efforts that they put into themselves,” she said. “I know the value of having supportive, unfailing companions to support me; I’d like to accentuate the importance of believing and trusting in those who are willing to hold us up when we need the courage to keep going and put that one more foot forward.”

Two of Crystal’s supporters are her daughters Emily and Jamie. “Emily, who is graduating with me, said that she ‘just sort of knew the whole time’ that it would be me speaking at convocation. I had to laugh at that, the poor kid just can’t get away from my constant chatter!” laughed Crystal, on what her daughters think of her being named Valedictorian. “My youngest daughter, Jamie, is very excited and proud that I am the Valedictorian.”

After graduating from Fleming College, Crystal plans to enrol in the Bachelor of Professional Arts in Criminal Justice program at Athabasca University, with the goal of working with youth and women.

“I feel that continuing with my education while I’m still in the groove is the best course of action for me,” she said.